A Burnaby, B.C. family has been forced to take their landlord to small claims court to recoup the compensation awarded to them as a result of wrongful eviction.
Kahlil Ashanti and his wife were awarded more than $24,300 by a Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator in March, but “the jubilation ended fairly quickly” when they realized the hoops they would have to jump through when their landlord failed to pay up.
“We have to file an order at small claims court to get our money. It’s a whole different process that has nothing to do with the RTB (Residential Tenancy Branch),” Ashanti told Global News.
“The system doesn’t have any teeth and he has no reason to obey it.”
The Ashantis began renting their Burnaby home on June 1, 2019, but left on Feb. 28, 2021, after being served notice to leave so the landlord’s son could move in. Ashanti said he, his wife and three children were given less than the mandatory two months’ notice, which prompted them to request a hearing from the RTB’s Dispute Resolution Services.
In mid-March, the landlord’s son moved into the vacant unit, which was also undergoing a number of repairs.
During the hearing about a year later, however, the RTB’s arbitrator, questioned the veracity of the landlord’s claim that his son was truly occupying the unit for the six months required by law.
The arbitrator noted that according to Fortis BC bills, no gas was consumed at the property between April 15, 2021 and fall of that year. He also did “not find it likely” that the BC Hydro bills would amount to less than $30 per month on average, as submitted in evidence.
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 six months beginning within a reasonable period after the effective date of the notice.”
The arbitrator ordered the landlord to pay up “as soon as possible” on March 8, notifying him that if he did not comply, the order may be filed in small claims court.
Ashanti said he sent a letter to the landlord outlining a timeline and method of payment, and when the family finally took the order to court, the landlord filed a petition to B.C. Supreme Court to overturn the results of the Dispute Resolution Services hearing in March.
“I don’t really intimidate easily, but it was just a bit of a gong show from their side, trying to intimidate us into not doing this,” he said. “We have legal counsel and we’re in the process of pursuing every opportunity and avenue we can per the law to be able to collect our money.”
Global News reached out multiple times to Zach Pringle of Hara & Company, whom Ashanti identified as the landlord’s lawyer. Pringle did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Ashanti lamented the lack of enforcement powers within the RTB, the complexity of the small claims court process and its cost to tenants, and the toll it takes on their families.
“I’m hundreds and hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket paying to go to small claims court to file paperwork and collect money that apparently I’m owed, while the party who is supposed to pay me has no reason to pay attention or act otherwise,” he said, adding that he has had to take time off work as well.
“It’s not just the time and money … our family was distraught. My wife — we were crying. Our kids wanted to come visit (the house).”
Responding to a similar story of wrongful eviction covered by Global News on Monday, the minister responsible for housing in B.C. said the RTB 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.”
“The fact that this government got in that bad faith eviction section allows for real penalties to be exacted, sometimes thousands of dollars,” Murray Rankin told Global News on Monday.
“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.”
Reform is a possibility, Rankin added.