The BC Supreme Court is sending mixed signals in a judicial review process that pits Hollyburn Properties against Bay Towers residents. In the last two weeks, the court has overturned one set of evictions, while sending another pro-tenant ruling back for further arbitration.
Sarah Berry says she felt “really good” after learning she and her seventh-floor neighbours won their bid to remain in their suites. “Obviously, Hollyburn can [take this] to the Court of Appeal. They have to make that call. But this is precedent setting,” Berry asserts.
The court’s ruling centred around three main points: that the Residential Tenancy Act does not stipulate a minimum time requirement for vacant possession; that if tenants are willing to move out for a period of time to accommodate renovations, there is no need to evict them; and that the spirit of the Act provides for security of tenure. If there is any ambiguity in the Act, tenants as the vulnerable parties should be favoured.
The mood in Berry’s building was anything but jubilant Feb 23 when the court sent ninth and 10th floor tenants Janine Fuller, Julie Stines and Sharon Isaak back to arbitration because of a procedural error in their original hearing. The Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) had ruled in their favour Oct 25; Hollyburn appealed.
During the RTO hearing, Fuller and her co-complainants presented ways they could accommodate Hollyburn’s renovation schedule while still maintaining their tenancy. The arbitrator agreed, adding the planned renovations seemed more cosmetic than structural. The court ruled the RTO acted outside its scope and ordered it to hold a new hearing.
“I thought we turned a corner when we won [at arbitration],” says Fuller. “Everything depends on who the judges are.”
Another group of Bay Towers tenants are due in court Mar 2 for their next hearing. Hollyburn’s Michael Lensen refused to comment on the court’s rulings.