VANCOUER (NEWS 1130) — Dave Brighton knows his $300 a month room in a shared character home near Vancouver’s Coal Harbour is cheap, but the 67-year-old retiree says he wouldn’t be able to afford anything in the city if he moved.
He’s lived in the home for 12 years, but starting in November 2013, he and the other tenants began facing a litany of up to five eviction orders. The latest was posted on one of the tenant’s doors last Sunday, just days after the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) dismissed the previous order saying it was not issued in good faith.
“I’m just stressed right to the maximum. If I get thrown out of here, I’ll basically be sleeping on the street.” Brighton, said Thursday. “It’s very stressful when you’re a senior citizen living on a pension to have somebody throwing to throw you in the street over and over. At this point it’s just plain out harassment.”
His neighbour Antonia Allan has lived in the home since 2003 and has faced five eviction orders, the most of any tenant. She believes she is being targeted after leading the building’s fight against the first order in 2013.
“It’s insane,” Allan said. “No one should be expected to live through this. It’s too much. At this point we’re pretty good at it, it’s just that it’s a lot of leg work and actual time.”
Landlord Brent Wolverton’s first eviction notice was issued because he said he wanted to convert the entire house into a home for a caretaker. In December 2013, the RTB ruled it was pointless to have a caretaker for a building with no renters and cancelled the notice.
Allan then received another order on Jan. 22, 2014 saying a caretaker would be moving into her suite, but again the RTB ruled in her favour saying “the landlord has failed to establish a good faith intention. I determined the landlord has an ulterior motive to terminate the tenancy of what they perceive is a troublesome tenant.”
A letter to tenants in January 2017 said the third floor was not safe to occupy. Allan said the landlord had also said his son needed to move into her suite.
Another order was rejected on a technicality in December 2018 and less than a month later, yet another was given to Brighton and Allan on Jan 24, 2019.
“There’s no quality of life or peace of mind at this point. He just continues to keep hitting us with eviction notices hoping (the RTB is) going to change its mind about throwing us out,” Brighton said.
Wolverton says the current eviction notice is because he plans to take the home off the rental market and allow his son to live in the home.
“We’re just looking to occupy the house. I have a couple of young kids that have come back from college and they have a job offer in Richmond and they want to live downtown.” he said. “We think we’ve done a great service to the community to provide it as a rental all these years and when we try to withdraw from the rental market, we’ve feeling like we get slapped in the face.”
The original notices were because he wanted a care taker, according to Wolverton, but the issue was six years ago and has since been resolved.
“”Why is that even relevant? From six years ago? What you’re listening to is the tenants trying to stir up whatever they can to sugges tthat there’s an evil plot in the background. There isn’t,” he said. “I get the fact that there’s only a few rentals, it’s a low vacancy rate. I understand tenants are sensitive to that. I empathize with the tenants. They’ve got to go find somewhere new to live.”
Most of the other tenants moved out of their own accord, but Allan says one woman signed a fixed term lease and was forced to leave.
Brighton and Allan have successfully fought each notice and say they will continue to fight, but want the province to change the rules so landlords can’t issue another eviction order immediately after the previous attempt fails.
“I’m not worried that we’re going to lose the mediation. My concern is that there’s nothing stopping him from giving us an eviction notice three days after we win this one and until the end of time,” Allan said.
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert has been aware of the case, after one of the tenants reached out to him.
“It’s incredibly frustrating that somebody who has been shown to be breaking the rules, to not be following the law, just tries to do it again and again,” he said. “Nobody should feel afraid to live in their own home.”
He says while landlords can be fined if they don’t act in good faith and do what they say they will do with the property, actual consequences are rare. He says one of the issues is eviction notices are not tracked by the province or RTB.
“I think most landlords follow the rules, most tenants do, but all it takes is one person bending the spirit of the law and you get horrible circumstances,” he said.