Lying landlord uses legal loopholes to evict tenants to the streets

Evicted during COVID-19

Two Surrey tenants were made homeless after their unscrupulous landlord lied to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) in order to send bailiffs to their door.

Roommates Brandon and Natasha received an eviction notice on November 7th for failure to pay rent. They responded by paying their rent within the five-day deadline dictated by BC’s Residential Tenancy Act. They figured that ended the matter and paid their December rent as usual.

Then, on December 8th, building management gave them an order from the RTB stating they had to vacate the premises within two days. Brandon didn’t know they were being evicted: “They never even told us there was a hearing. The landlord is shady.”

Brandon and Natasha filed a dispute with the Residential Tenancy Branch, explaining that the landlord received their order to vacate under false pretenses. In response, they received a hearing date. Again, they figured that ended their January eviction date, because evictions are put on hold until an adjudicator can make a ruling.

But on the morning of January 11th at 10am, the bailiffs showed up at their door, carrying a writ of possession.

With bailiffs and movers in their suite, Brandon and Natasha, supported by organizers with the Eviction Defence Network (EDN), barricaded themselves in a bedroom to delay and resist their eviction. They hoped to hold off the bailiff until word could trickle down from higher-ups that the writ of possession, held by bailiffs as licence to make the two tenants homeless, was based on fraudulent claims. 

The system’s eviction machinery, however, did not hesitate. The bailiffs, meeting resistance, called the RCMP. The RCMP threatened the eviction resistors with obstruction, and, intimidated, the tenants opened Natasha’s bedroom door and walked out – to homelessness. 

“You say that you’re here to ‘ensure safety.’ How is my safety being respected?” Natasha asks Surrey RCMP Constable Westerguard (VOLCANO)

Eviction Defence Network organizer Listen Chen said, “The property manager, Top Vision Realty Inc, lied in order to get an order of possession. Brandon and Natasha paid their rent late in November, but within five days of receiving a notice to end tenancy. This is an illegal eviction.”

Reviews of Top Vision Realty Inc online bear this out. One review after another from former tenants accuse Top Vision of lying, stealing, and unprofessional conduct. The landlord, meanwhile, is difficult to find. The apartment is in a condo building, and while Brandon and Natasha have the name of the owner of their unit, they have no contact information.

But the lesson from this eviction is not only that unscrupulous building managers and absentee landlords abuse tenants. It is that British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy system is built to enable and abet that abuse, created with countless loopholes that make it easy for landlords to perform evictions, while placing a bureaucratic burden on tenants trying to fight evictions and assert their rights under the RTA

Eviction Defence Network organizer Cecile Revaux called the RTB during the standoff in Brandon and Natasha’s apartment. She says, “The person I spoke to at the RTB told me it’s the tenants’ fault because they didn’t file on time.” The RTB worker told Revaux, “If tenants want justice they must follow the rules,” and speculated that “maybe they didn’t care so much about their home because they didn’t pay it on time.”

Moralizing scorn from an RTB phone worker aside, the technical reason Brandon and Natasha were evicted was because they made a series of minor mistakes in dealing with the Residential Tenancy system. First, the tenants did appeal the eviction notice in November but did not complete their application properly. The RTB called them asking for more information but they did not receive the calls, because their phones are, as for many low-income people, through a free cell provider. Secondly, when the tenants received the RTB order to vacate at the beginning of December, they had two days to request a review of the RTB decision. They did not know and did not file to cancel the notice until after they made contact with volunteer advocates with the Eviction Defence Network at the end of December. By then it was too late.

So even though the tenants paid their late rent, and paid their full rent on time the following month, they were evicted for not following the letter of bureaucratic policy in how they filled out and filed their forms. Cecile Revaux called the Tenancy Branch bureaucracy, “infuriating.”

The lesson for organizers, Revaux says, is that if tenants make one of a million potential mistakes that make their unscrupulous eviction technically legal, then there’s not a moment to lose. “Past these deadlines, the deadly eviction machine is started and the only way to put a wrench in it is to build a strong political defence, to organize with neighbours if possible, to publicly pressure the landlord and the City to halt the displacement.” To be stuck scrambling after the bailiffs have already showed up at the door is often too late.

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