2 min

Landlord sells building after tenants win

'It's not just a provincial issue, it's a national issue' : tenants' lawyer

For David Bronstein (right) and his partner, Donald Ransom, the eviction fight took its toll. The couple decided to move out of Seafield last July after Ransom suffered a heart attack. "We felt we were forced to move," Bronstein said. Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

Ownership of an apartment building located in the heart of the gay village has changed hands following the announcement of a Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) ruling that overturned the landlord’s attempt to evict several tenants to carry out renovations.

Jason Gordon of Gordon Nelson Investments says his company has sold the Seafield building at 1436 Pendrell St for $3,688,000 – nearly $240,000 more than what it was purchased for in 2008. The sale was announced Feb 23, following the RTB’s ruling.

Gordon would not disclose the identity of the buyers but says he expects the deal to be closed on March 1. “It’s been an absolute clusterfuck for everyone involved,” Gordon says of the two-year dispute, the reason he gave for selling the building.

Dispute resolution officer D Vaughn stated in the decision that “on a balance of probabilities,” Gordon Nelson Investments’ claim that it needed to evict tenants to undertake renovations is “undermined by their ulterior, primary motive of achieving a substantial rent increase.”

Vaughn also stated that he suspected the landlords served the notices to end tenancy because they were “unsuccessful in their attempt to achieve significantly higher rates for the rental units in question.”

“We hope this is a signal to other developers and other landlords that it’s not going to be easy to kick tenants out,” Douglas King, a lawyer for the tenants, said during a press conference held outside the Seafield building on Feb 23.

“We’re here today to celebrate a victory,” agreed Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.

However, despite the celebrations, tenants and housing advocates say more must be done.”We’ve won today but the war remains,” Chandra Herbert said. “For every building like the Seafield there could be dozens of buildings that don’t fight – that give up,” he said.

“It’s good news for the Seafielders, but it [also] points out that changes need to be made to the whole [Residential Tenancy Act],” added Andrew Simmons of Emerald Terrace apartments, another West End complex whose residents have also been embroiled in eviction hearings with their landlord, Hollyburn.

“Why is it that tenants have to enforce the law?” Simmons asked.

Seafield tenant Melissa Mewdell said the Residential Tenancy Act  is “broken”  and must be addressed to stop landlords from using “predatory business tactics.”

“I’m not sure how a system that allows this to happen in the first place can be called a working system,” she added. “It’s really no way to live,” she said of the constant worry of losing her home. “We have lost people to this [battle], and not everyone can fight.”

For David Bronstein and his partner, Donald Ransom, the fight took its toll and the couple decided to move out of Seafield last July after Ransom suffered a heart attack. “We felt we were forced to move,” Bronstein told Xtra, adding that the stress of “not knowing day to day what would happen next” was just too much for the aging couple.

“This [win] never would have happened if it weren’t for that hard work of the Seafielders,” King pointed out, adding that “we are not sure this is the end of the issue.” He called on the federal government to take notice of the problem. “It’s not just a provincial issue, it’s a national issue,” he argued.

As the Seafielders celebrate their victory, Gordon says his company has washed its hands of any ongoing and further action against the tenants. “The deal is over,” Gordon said. But he, too, predicts the tenants’ fight will be an ongoing one.

“They’re never going to win this,” he says. “The next owners will want [market value] rent. This issue is not going to end.”