Renters of Vancouver: “The Residential Tenancy Branch can’t enforce its own decision”

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      “Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.

      “My husband and I were renting a unit in a three-storey apartment building. I thought we were good tenants. But we had just come from Ontario, and, when we were in that province, we remembered only giving two weeks’ notice. We were coming to the end of our one-year fixed-term lease here, and we didn’t think that we had to inform the landlord at all that we would be leaving, seeing as our agreement would be up—because, in our experience in Ontario, you only have to talk to the owner if you decide not to move out. So we gave the landlord 15 days' notice, thinking that we were doing the right thing—and no one said anything at all.

      “We knew the building manager was going to be a dick during the final inspection. So we did absolutely everything we could to make the place spotless. We rented a carpet cleaner, we filled all the holes, we matched the paint colour—anything we thought might possibly be a problem—and compared it to the checklist that you get at the beginning.

      “The day that we were moving out, the building manager came to inspect the unit. He said, ‘Yes, everything looks good,’ and we signed the report. He didn’t give us a copy, but luckily I took a photo of it. And again, no one said anything.

      “Because we weren’t confident that the building manager would pass everything on, we called the landlord to make sure that he got the inspection documents, and that we were going to get our deposit back. He said that we would.

      “A month went by, and we were wondering where our money was. We had a dog, too, so we were expecting our damage deposit plus our pet deposit. My husband was in school for mechanical engineering, and I was trying to run my own business, and we were super busy, and super strapped for cash. We were thinking to ourselves that we could really use the money. But when we finally got in touch with the landlord, he said that—because we didn’t give 30 days’ notice—we wouldn’t be getting our deposit back.

      “We went to the Residential Tenancy Branch, and found out that he had to file the paperwork within 15 days of us moving out in order to keep the deposit—which he didn’t do. So we filed instead, to say why we should get the money back.

      “After we got our arbitration date, my husband did so much research on the Tenancy Act. My sister was pre-law so she helped us too. In the hearing, the landlord said that he had lost rental revenue because we had only told him we were leaving 15 days in advance. He told the arbitrator that he lost one month’s rent by not having the notice, despite listing it online immediately. We knew that wasn’t the case, because we continued to look the building up on Craigslist and Kijiji to see when he actually put it up for new tenants. He didn’t place an ad on Craigslist until some time later.

      “The arbitrator said that in the absence of evidence to show that the landlord had attempted to mitigate the loss, he would not be allowing the claim for lost rental revenue. So we won our hearing. 

      “A few weeks later, though, the landlord appealed the decision. He was basically saying that the first arbitrator wasn’t following the rules of the Tenancy Act. So we went through the whole process again—and the second Residential Tenancy Branch representative said exactly the same thing, that the decision rendered the last time was correct. So we won again.

      “We waited the allotted amount of time for the money to be paid out, and it never appeared. When we got in contact to ask him where our cheque was, and he straight-up replied, ‘I’m not sending it to you.’

      “The Residential Tenancy Branch can’t enforce its own decision. The only thing we could do was go to the Small Claims Court. At this point, we’d spent months dealing with this BS. My husband was super stressed with his course at school, I was trying to run my own business, and we were both so mentally exhausted from the last two hearings that we just couldn’t go through it again. We didn’t have the energy to take our case to the Small Claims Court, and wait another four months for the decision. We figured we would just forget it.

      “We had lost $800. We drew the line there, and we just gave up.

      “Part of me wants to chase him down just to get justice. But at the same time, we’re leaving in October to go back to Ontario because it’s just too expensive here. I’d rather stay if we could—if it was actually feasible to buy property. I’m 30, and all my friends in Ontario are buying houses and having kids, and we’re in a basement apartment, and there’s no way we can afford it. We can’t pay off our student debt, and save a down payment, and continue to live here in Vancouver. If we’re going to move out to Surrey and away from all of our friends and community, it’s still expensive. It’s not worth moving out to the valley. So after 10 years, we’re just going back to Ontario to start all over again."

      Got a story to share? Tweet Kate Wilson here, or email k_wilson@straight.com 

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