The Residential Tenancy Branch is reconsidering investigating an apartment landlord after initially rejecting the request of a local poverty group.
Together Against Poverty Society filed a judicial review to the B.C. Supreme Court challenging the Residential Tenancy Branch's decision not to investigate Westsea Construction Ltd., landlord of View Towers, where a fire displaced 70 residents.
“I would be surprised if the Residential Tenancy Branch took the view that there were not groudns to investigate what happened at View Towers, but I was surprised when they said no the first time,” said Stephen Portman, Together Against Poverty Society interim executive director.
“I think the case that we've presented in our investigation request is incredibly detailed, and the evidence in support of the allegations of contraventions of the Residential Tenancy Act that we have raised is pretty compelling.”
TAPS alleges that Westsea Construction provided misinformation about the state of suites and tenants' personal property, coerced tenants into signing agreements to end their tenancies and failed to provide tenants with access to their personal property.
“At the end of the investigation, as we allege, they will determine that there have been systemic contraventions of the Residential Tenancy Act,” said Portman. “The Residential Tenancy Branch [will be] empowered to levy administrative penalties against the landlord.”
While former tenants of View Towers will not benefit financially from an investigation, Portman said he hopes this will set a standard for similar cases in B.C.
“Our desired outcome would be that an example is set that landlords in British Columbia have a responsibility to deal in good faith with their tenants,” he said. “We want to ensure that tenants who are in the same situation elsewhere in B.C. don't go through the same thing that happened at View Towers.”
Portman said he expects to hear back from the Residential Tenancy Branch soon.