A group of Port Coquitlam tenants could be out on the street in 48 hours if they lose their case with the Residential Tenancy Branch.
The four tenants live in individual two-bedroom suites in a fourplex on the city's north side and are challenging an eviction order by their new landlord.
"We don't believe the new owner is going to do what he says he's going to do," says Randy Hodgson, who pays $800 a month rent for his unit and has lived in the building, a converted duplex, for more than a decade.
The tenants received notice two months ago that they would have to move out of the property located near Westwood Street in one of the city's north west neighbourhoods.
(The property address is not being published because of the impending hearing but it's in an area of the city not far from a new transit-oriented development zone created by the City of Port Coquitlam).
The 60-year-old building is a likely tear down and the property is valued at approximately $1.4 million, according to BC Assessment.
CRUEL TO TURN THEM OUT IN WINTER
But the four tenants — one of whom has lived in the building for more than 20 years — don't believe the new owner is planning to move into the building and, even if he does, they say it's cruel that he's turning them out during a pandemic and in the middle of winter.
However, the new owner has every right to move into the building.
B.C. has laws to stop landlords from kicking out tenants to do simple repairs for jacking up rents. But some renovictions are permitted with documented evidence and owners can evict with two months' notice if they plan to move into a building themselves.
The eviction date was supposed to be today (Jan. 6) but a hearing with the Residential Tenancy Branch on Jan. 17 means the tenants have a few weeks of respite.
Still, if they lose, and the owner can prove he plans to use all four two bedroom suites for his own purposes, then the tenants will have 48 hours to move out.
"I am scrambling myself to find a place," said Hodgson, but he says other tenants are also facing eviction, including a senior who has lived in the building for more than 20 years.
"She has no where to go," he commented.
According to a letter given to residents, the new owner of their building plans to move his daughters into two of the suites, live in one himself and turn the fouth unit into a home office.
"To kick us out because you need a two bedroom with a kitchen as a home office, I mean it just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test what with the whole country and governments talking about housing."
"We need a more caring place for these people," said Hodgson.
The tenants want the new owner to prove he really does intend to move into the building himself.
Michelle Beda, a legal advocate for the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), will be representing the tenants at the Jan. 17 hearing.
She agrees more should be done to help residents when buildings change hands.
LANDLORDS TOLD IT'S EASY TO EVICT TENANTS
"It's the kind of thing that hundreds if not thousands of tenants are facing, said Beda.
"They are told the owner is moving in, [a notice] is really all they have. Sometimes the landlord will contact tenants and provide information and an indication whether it's happening in good faith. [But] in a lot of cases real estate agents say no problem, you give the letter to the seller, the tenants move out and that’s that."
Beda said her group would like the province to toughen up the rules for when new owners take over a building, such as requiring landlords to provide documentary evidence to tenants that they plan to move into the units themselves.
Most tenants aren't willing to risk a hearing with the tenancy branch because if they lose they have to leave in 48 hours.
"You have to file to dispute the eviction, then the tenant is in this precarious situation where they don’t know whether they are going to be evicted."
Hodgson, who is worried about being forced out of his home during a housing shortage, said his former landlord could have asked the new owner to cut the tenants some slack.
"He could have done more for the little guys. When he sold the place he could have said I want my guys to have six months to get out, maybe in the summer, when it’s easier to find a place."
In the case of a demolition, Beda said, landlords must give residents four months to move out.
The tenants have paid rent through the end of January but if the new landlord can convince the arbitrator of his intention to move in, then the residents will likely have to leave within 48 hours of the hearing.
Beda said only in rare cases is the eviction date extended.
"The whole process, is just unfair to tenants in my view," she said.