Janine Fuller and her partner Julie Stines won round one of their battle against Hollyburn Properties Oct 25, when the Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) ruled in their favour.
Fuller and Stines, along with their neighbour Sharon Isaak, sought arbitration last month after their landlord first sought to raise their rents above the allowable limit, then changed its mind and sought to evict them altogether.
Hollyburn told the RTO that it had to evict the tenants because it now plans to renovate their suites and can’t do that unless they’re vacant. The RTO didn’t buy it.
The planned renovations are more cosmetic than structural, the RTO ruled. “It is worth noting that prior to the hearing the landlord made no attempt to speak to the tenants about their willingness to accommodate or facilitate the renovations to the rental units,” it added, before quashing the eviction notices.
“It was quite wild,” says Fuller. “Really nobody thought we had a hope in hell.”
The decision sets an important precedent, she says, not just for her neighbours–many of whom are still facing their own eviction notices–but for others in similar situations throughout the West End.
“The most important thing is that the decision is out there. Anyone facing these issues can at least get a little hope.”
But the battle is far from over, she says.
Hollyburn’s Michael Lensen told Xtra West Nov 2 that he will appeal the decision. He says the RTO “did not give proper consideration” to the need to vacate the suites prior to renovating.
“The tenants are not involved in construction, I am,” says Lensen. “I know they need to be vacant for the work to be done.” The planned renovations include removing and replacing the tub, tiles, toilet, floor and fixtures in the bathroom, replacing all the kitchen counters and cabinets, and refinishing the hardwood floors.
Lensen says the tenants could move out temporarily to accommodate the work then return when it’s done–provided they pay a higher rent when they return. “It will be a brand new suite; that comes at a price,” he says.
As for Fuller, Stines and Isaak, Lensen says they can continue living in their suites until the appeal is resolved. “What can I do? Nothing. Just start renovating those suites that are empty.”
Fuller says she’s not going anywhere. “We’re not evicted. We’re not moving. We’re holding tight.”