‘I had to uproot my family’: Surrey, B.C. parents awarded over $33K for wrongful eviction

Click to play video: 'Wrongfully evicted tenant calls for changes to B.C. tenancy laws'
Wrongfully evicted tenant calls for changes to B.C. tenancy laws
A Surrey woman whose family was awarded tens of thousands of dollars for being wrongfully evicted from their home says her battle is far from over, if she wants to collect her money. Aaron McArthur reports – Nov 21, 2022

A Surrey, B.C. family of seven has been awarded $33,600 after they were wrongfully evicted from their home of about two years.

Tenants Natalie and Ryan Egger began leasing month-to-month on Dec. 7, 2018, but were served a two-month notice to leave their South Surrey house on Sept. 9, 2021, as it had been sold to their new landlord who planned to move in.

That landlord did not move in, however, but rented the property again for $4,750 — $1,950 more than what the Eggers paid, according to the arbitration decision shared with Global News.

“We were pretty upset because we felt we were wrongfully evicted at that point,” Natalie Egger told Global News on Monday.

“I had to uproot my entire family, find a new home and pay significantly more monthly, and we were very happy in the home that we were living in.”

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Under B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act, after serving two months’ notice, a landlord must pay the tenants 12 times their monthly rent if the unit they fail to “use the rental unit for that stated purpose for at least 6 months beginning within a reasonable period after the effective date of the notice.”

The landlord filed no evidence for the Eggers’ dispute resolution hearing, but told the Residential Tenancy Branch they had lived in another province for 10 years, “the rules are different here,” and “nobody guided us.”

“The landlord testified that their circumstances had changed and the landlord’s husband suffered a severe heart attack,” reads the document dated Oct. 18, 2022.

“The landlord was unable to confirm the exact date when their husband had the heart attack, and when questioned several times finally responded ‘a year and a few months.'”

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Neither the arbitrator nor Egger felt that living out of province was an excuse for not knowing one’s responsibilities under the law.

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Egger said it “felt pretty good” to have the Residential Tenancy Branch side with her family in the hearing, but would have ultimately preferred not to have left the property.

Adding insult to injury, she added, is that she and her partner are left to contact the property owners themselves and will have to go to court if the landlords don’t pay.

“It seems like the process in general is very disjointed and I wish it was more seamless,” she said.

“We now have to write a letter to the owners of the property to receive our monetary orders … and are given pretty vague guidelines on what to ask for.”

In an interview, B.C. Minister Responsible for Housing Murray Rankin said the Residential Tenancy Branch has a “compliance and enforcement unit” that can “levy penalties where required.” Normally, however, a decision is “enforced in the courts” and that’s a “very typical situation for administrative tribunals,” he added.

“The fact that this government got in that bad faith eviction section allows for real penalties to be exacted, sometimes thousands of dollars,” Rankin said.

“I would be the first to say that indeed, lately, because of post-pandemic delays, justice delayed is justice denied. We need to do better in getting the decisions out sooner.”

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Reform is a possibility, he told Global News.

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Egger said she would like to see a more “streamlined” process with clear information outlining the steps residents need to take both for dispute resolution, and if needed, in small claims court.

“I feel there needs to be more responsibility from the real estate agents as well to ensure that they’re fully informing the people who are making the purchase that this is what the tenants are paying … and if they can’t afford the mortgage on the property perhaps they should look somewhere else.”

Egger said the landlords have 15 days from the date they receiver her monetary order to respond. If that doesn’t happen, they go back to arbitration before going to court.

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