RTB gives Township of Langley greenlight to demovict low-income tenants
The Township of Langley is trying to evict five low-income tenants from their home, but has never served those tenants with a legal eviction notice since purchasing the property last October. Instead, the Township asked the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to award it an Order of Possession in order to displace renters and demolish their home, ostensibly to extend a massive parking lot.
Maureen Brown is one of the Township’s current tenants and has been demovicted from the past four houses she’s lived in. She knows how to fight landlords, so she filed for a dispute hearing against the Township in February. At the hearing on Monday, Maureen asked for four more months so that she and her roommates can avoid homelessness and find adequate housing. The Township, represented by municipal staff Caren Roche and Johnny Grewal, shot down her request and offered her one month. Maureen refused.
The main thrust of the Township’s argument at the hearing was that because Maureen’s previous landlord had served her with a four-month eviction notice in September, the Township is exempt from following the same legal protocols that any landlord is expected to. Caren Roche explained that the Township purchased the property in October last year, and because the previous owner had served an eviction notice in September, they expected Maureen and her roommates to willingly leave. But none of the renters ever signed a mutual agreement to end tenancy, which is the legal document that landlords must obtain if they want renters to agree to move out.
Maureen explained that she and her roommates prepared to move, but had nowhere to go and were offered nothing by the Township but help moving their stuff and a temporary stay in a hotel. She paid rent to the Township for the months of November and December, and is willing to pay the subsequent rent that she withheld while she was waiting to see the outcome of the RTB dispute.
Maureen reached out to the Eviction Defence Network (EDN) in February to help her fight the looming eviction. At the hearing, an EDN organizer called in and argued that the Township is just like any other landlord and should serve a legal eviction notice if it wants to evict its tenants. The law says that when a new landlord purchases a rental property, they must honour the existing tenancy agreement, and that an agreement may be “implied.” There is also nothing in the Residential Tenancy Act that suggests that if one landlord obtains a demolition permit and serves a four-month eviction notice, that that notice automatically carries over to a new landlord.
While it’s outside of the scope of the RTB to hold governments accountable to higher standards, Maureen also pointed out that the Township is forcing her and other tenants out for no good reason other than to demolish their home. She asked, “Why does the Township need to spend 16.9 million dollars for a parking lot for an events centre that has no events during Covid for us to go homeless? We have nowhere to go and I’ve had the city cut the lock off my gate and my friend manhandled by city workers and police. The Township has not offered us housing to move into.”
Unfortunately, RTB adjudicator E Takayanagi made his decision within three days, giving the Township the greenlight to forcibly evict Maureen and her roommates with a bailiff. But Maureen isn’t leaving without a fight. She’s filed a judicial review to try to obtain a stay against the Township’s Order of Possession, which commands her to move out by Monday, May 10th.
Maureen said, “I’m appalled at the Township’s attitude. The whole thing is gross. Their municipal report says they ‘look after’ the community, but Roch said they just need to demolish the property. For what? They have no construction plans… We are tenants. If they want to evict us, they should use a legal eviction notice and follow the laws. A letterhead with the Township’s name on it isn’t a legal eviction notice.”
The Township of Langley thinks it is above provincial tenancy law, but Maureen and her roommates are prepared to put up a fight in defence of their rights as tenants, and as people who will not be displaced by a municipal government without a fight.