NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – A single father has been left scrambling to find a new place to live after complaints about his two-year-old son causing too much noise led to an eviction notice last September.
A Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator has given Matt Astifan 10 days to get out, after finding noise caused by both father and son was enough to uphold the eviction.
Astifan and his son, Marcus, moved into their Queensborough apartment in August 2017. The noise complaints about playing in the hall and the building’s lobby started in January 2018.
“I had a soft soccer ball. We would take it all the way to the end of the hallway and go downstairs and play … in the lobby. We did it a few times, and then we got a complaint through email from the manager,” Astifan told NEWS 1130.
He says he addressed the issue and apologized, but then more complaints started from two separate tenants of the apartment below his.
“The manager sends me … a breach notice for noise disturbance. I emailed them a detailed email … trying to showcase for them that I’m very willing to comply with their request and I asked them what they wanted me, specifically, to do to try to reduce the sound. His suggestion was to keep Marcus upstairs,” he said.
“I said ‘I can’t really do that. I’ve got to keep an eye on him. He’s two years old and he’s not going to be very happy if I lock him in a room upstairs.”
Astifan says he added a rug to his living room and re-arranged the furniture in an attempt to reduce the noise.
Wow so… just got the news…Marcus and I are officially the first family in the history of British Columbia to be…
He said he used to feel he had a good relationship with his landlord.
“Prior to him sending the first breach notice, we were fine … he was very friendly,” he said. “It was after he sent the breach notice that I was definitely upset and the relationship turned turmoil.”
Astifan says he received another breach notice a couple of weeks later. That’s when he says he filed a dispute with the Residential Tenancy Branch, claiming he was being harassed and discriminated against.
The complaint was dismissed and Astifan said he was handed an eviction notice a couple of weeks later in September last year.
“I made another claim with the Residential Tenancy Branch. That was the hearing that we had on Jan. 15. We just got that result in. The arbitrator sided with the landlords to evict us,” he said.
“I always assumed that if I lost the case, I would have 30 days’ notice.”
In an audio recording of the arbitrator meeting, both Astifan and the landlord acknowledge he was offered a suite on the ground flood and two townhouses as alternative places to live. But he says he doesn’t want to give up his dream home.
“I live in a loft by the water. I live in, arguably, the best unit in the building. It took me six months to find the unit,” Astifan said, adding during the meeting he pays $2,865 a month rent.
“The last place I lived in, I lived there for like, a decade. I don’t move around a lot. Moving is a headache. It’s hard … If I wanted to move, I would just move into whatever’s available. Why would I only choose three options?”
He said he is shocked he was only given 10 days to leave the suite.
“I always assumed that if I lost the case, I would have 30 days’ notice … I figured the worst-case scenario would be Mar. 1, if I lost the case. But the arbitrator decided to give me 10 days because I’ve already paid my rent for the month of January. So, she gave me until Jan. 31 at 1 o’clock to get out.”
Astifan is worried about what this ruling could mean for other parents.
“This case would set precedence for other families,” he argued. “It would allow other managers to evict people over what you call ‘child noise disturbance.'”
“[My son] is two years old. Of course, he runs around … there’s only so much you can do.”
He doesn’t believe there’s anything in the Residential Tenancy Act to keep a landlord from evicting somebody for the noise a child makes. “I think that is something that needs to be addressed, especially for toddlers or children between the ages of 0 to 5 … Imagine you’ve got a baby crying at night and you’ve got tenants complaining about the sound.”
“Marcus is two years old. Of course, he runs around the place. There’s only so much I can do to try to stop him and explain to him to keep it down. Of course, he will listen to me in that moment and he’ll go sit down. I usually suggest he do something else — like, ‘Why don’t you go colour? Why don’t you go watch a cartoon?’ — there’s only so much you can do. So, granted, there’s going to be some noise.”
“The agents testified that they are a multi-family complex and have at least 20 other families with up to four children in a unit, and they do not have the same problems as they have no issue with reasonable noise of children playing,” read the Residential Tenancy Branch ruling.
Astifan feels the arbitrator in his case wasn’t being fair. “During the actual call, the arbitrator started making suggestions to the witnesses, which are the tenants below, that the noise was about me making the noise and that I was purposely making noise — which was contrary to any communication prior to the call.”
He believes the arbitrator ruled against him on that premise.
“The case had always been about child noise disturbance,” he said.
“Right to privacy and quiet enjoyment extends to all tenants”
Under the tenancy agreement, tenants have a right to peace, privacy and quiet enjoyment in their homes, according to the BC Residential Tenancy Branch (BCRTB).
“This may include the tenant’s right to have guests, play music at a reasonable level and to allow their children to play during acceptable hours,” BCRTB wrote in an email.
“This right to privacy and quiet enjoyment extends to all tenants in multi-unit buildings and tenants. Tenants must make sure they, their guests and their pets don’t unreasonably disturb other occupants. If there are disturbances like unreasonable noise, excessive second-hand smoke or harassment from a neighbouring tenant of the same landlord, the tenant are encouraged to ask their landlord’s help to address the issues.
BCRTB only receives data on notices of eviction when a tenant disputes the notice, so it does not know if other residents have been evicted over child noise before. A brief search of the branch’s previous decisions found a similar case in May, 2018 where the BCRTB ruled in favour of the landlord who evicted tenants because of noise caused, in part, by their two-year-old child.
Astifan said isn’t sure what he’s going to do, but he is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
“When I first got [the decision] I had this whole ‘screw it’ mentality. Why am I fighting this? It’s costing me so much energy. I’ll just leave,” he said. “But the reaction I’m getting from my friends … everyone’s saying, ‘You’ve got to fight this.'”
He said he has reached out to the Community Legal Assistance Society about whether to escalate the issue. In the meantime, he’s been keeping an eye out for a new place to live.
The landlords, Port Royal Village Developments were unavailable for an interview on the matter and Landlord BC declined to provide a comment to CityNews.