West End tenants handed win over landlord in ‘greed evictions’

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By Matt Kieltyka Metro

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro Absalon Figueroa (right) and husband Eric Stephenson outside their residence at 1168 Pendrell St.

The Residential Tenancy Branch has ruled overwhelmingly in favour of tenants in a West End apartment building who claimed their landlord was making their lives a nightmare.

In a decision made Jan. 9, an arbitrator ruled Plan A Real Estate’s Anoop Majithia was “not in compliance” when he raised laundry costs to $13.50 per load (from $4.75), restricted bike storage space, refused to accept post-dated cheques for rent, failed to provide adequate heat and attempted to evict residents for not carpeting their apartments. All the incidents took place after Plan A took possession of 1168 Pendrell St, known as Hofmann Manor, last August.

In all, 16 tenants were handed eviction notices within a month of new ownership and tenants were threatened with increased rents.

Plan A was also found to be illegally renting units in the building out for less than 30 days, through the popular online peer-to-peer accommodation website Airbnb – leading West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert to dub the situation “greed evictions.”

The arbitrator has now ordered laundry costs be reverted back to July 2014 levels, and encouraged tenants to apply for compensation for extra costs incurred because of the landlord’s actions.

The tenants of the building had already won multiple Residential Tenancy Branch decisions last year, successfully fighting off eviction notices in five cases.

Those cases included a couple that received three separate eviction notices in 14 days, where an arbitrator ruled “repeated notices and threatened rent increases communicated the landlord’s ulterior motive which was to have the tenants move out of the rental unit by whatever means possible.”

Arbitrators also rescinded eviction notices faced by a woman accused of living with an unauthorized person in her unit (her spouse) and tenants wrongly accused of an illegal sublet and for living with an illegal roommate.

In December, Majithia told Metro Plan A has since taken a “softer” approach towards tenants and said no more eviction notices have been issued.

He denied ever intentionally turning off tenants’ heat.

While the branch ruled in favour of tenants on most outstanding issues, the arbitrator denied an application for administrative penalties against Plan A for harassment.

“There is no evidence that the landlord has acted contrary to or out of compliance with an order or decision of the RTB,” the arbitrator ruled.

If granted, it would have been only the second time administrative penalties would have been given against a landlord in British Columbia.