Human and feline tenants alike are celebrating a victory against Hollyburn Properties this week.
“It’s just such a relief,” renter Mary Milligan told a press conference Mar 9, after waiting more than three months to hear that she and her cat Nico would not be evicted from their home.
At issue for 10 long-term residents of the West End’s Emerald Terrace apartments on Nelson St was the landlord’s attempt to evict them because of their pets.
The tenants argued that the building managers knew about their cats and that the company had given de facto consent for their continued presence.
The Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) agreed.
Since Hollyburn neglected to act on the ‘no pets clause’ in the rental agreement for a full year— despite having knowledge of the cats’ presence— the clause is now considered nonmaterial to eviction, the RTO ruled.
Hollyburn, which has received much public notice for its controversial eviction-for-renovation policies, released a short written statement in response to the ruling.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome,” it reads in part, “we respect the role of the Dispute Resolution Officer in this matter and will comply with her ruling.”
Local animal law expert Rebeka Breder was one of two lawyers who voluntarily helped tenants compile the necessary evidence to fight their evictions. She says such an undertaking could easily cost residents legal fees in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Solidarity among residents and widespread public attention to the situation are counted as factors in their success. “The exposure that we got lets other people know that they can fight as well,” notes Emerald Terrace tenant Andrew Simmons.
“Of course we were extremely happy about [the decision],” says Simmons, “but at the same time angry, because when you read the arbitrator’s reasons for the decision, it shows that this whole process was needless.”
Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert says the current government has allowed landlords a “culture of permissiveness” and that a comprehensive review of the Residential Tenancy Act is needed to restore the balance of power between landlords and tenants.
“A day doesn’t go by where I don’t hear from renters in the West End who are facing eviction, or massive rent hikes, or being threatened that they have to lose their pet or end up on the street,” Herbert says.