When everything in Brandon Fielding’s apartment was grabbed, picked up and tossed in storage by a group of men working with his landlord, he wasn’t sure if he would ever see it again.
After six weeks of living in hotels and out of a suitcase, Fielding got access to the storage locker, and found in it a security camera and footage that would allow him to see the illegal eviction on video.
“There was no decency or care taken with my belongings or my daughter’s,” Fielding told CTV News as he called for changes to B.C. law that would help protect tenants from having their lives disrupted.
“I need to know this isn’t going to happen again. I don’t want to see some other mom or dad or retired person or whoever thrown out on the street without their belongings because these guys decide they own the place so they have all the rights.”
In the video, at least four people, including Fielding’s landlord Timothy Karajaoja, enter the apartment and change the locks.
Fielding, who is outside the building with his one-year-old daughter, returns to knock on the door – but they don’t let him in. Off-camera, Fielding calls the police.
In the video, the Surrey RCMP officers can be heard knocking on the door, saying, “Open up, police!” The group doesn’t open the door.
“The cops are here, right outside, another day of bulls***,” says a man Fielding identified as Karajaoja. The team continues to move everything out, as the Surrey RCMP stand by, keeping the peace but not moving on Fielding’s allegations of theft.
According to B.C. law, a landlord who wants to evict a tenant forcibly must go to the residential tenancy board and get an order of possession. Then it’s got to be served on the tenant. If the tenant still doesn’t move out, the landlord can get a writ of possession from B.C. Supreme Court to enforce that order. At that point, a landlord may hire a court bailiff to evict the tenant.
“The landlord may never remove the tenant or tenant’s personal property,” reads a flow-chart published by the B.C. government.
Fielding was served with an eviction notice, but it was overturned by the Residential Tenancy Board.
That caused problems for the landlord because he had sold the property and it was supposed to change hands the next day, says a realtor who was associated with the rental.
“They had an order from the court to change the locks,” Jiti Sehra told CTV News. When informed that there was no such order, Sehra said, “He’s an a**hole. If I see him I’m going to run my car over him. I’m looking for him.”
CTV News also called a man who is seen in the video whose first name is Holland. Holland promised over the phone to reveal more information, but then didn’t show up to an interview.
When we tried the landlord’s address, the man who answered the door said he’d moved on. Karajaoja also spells his name Karajaoaj and Karajsoja in various documents reviewed by CTV News.
Fielding has an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch saying the landlord owes him more than $4,000 for payments to hotels and other expenses related to the eviction. But it’s up to him to collect, and he said documents he sent to Karajaoja’s address had been returned.
“If I’m going to get paid, it will be months down the road before I get anything,” Fielding said.
The Surrey RCMP told CTV News that even though the group of people took Fielding’s possessions, put them in storage and didn’t give Fielding access for weeks, officers are not following up on Fielding’s allegations of theft.
“Police who responded to the call for service determined that the conflict is a civil matter,” wrote Cpl. Elenore Sturko.
Vancouver-West-End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert is leading the consultations on how to improve B.C.’s landlord-tenant laws.
He said a compliance team that could independently investigate the allegations is in the pipeline, but that it isn’t operational yet.
“A compliance team, if someone is knowingly breaking the rules, could levy fines. That will put some teeth in the law,” he said.
“You don’t get to say, ‘You’re gone, I’m changing your locks.’ I would hope that someone who does that gets hit with heavy penalties. It would be like me going into a random person’s home and stealing their stuff. You don’t have that right,” he said.
The consultation will continue through June with Chandra Herbert visiting ten communities around B.C. to hear from landlords and tenants.