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A year's free rent awarded to Port Coquitlam tenant after landlord chose not to move into apartment

Tenant owed more than $22,000 after the purchaser of the apartment she was living in changed their mind about moving in and rented it out to someone else.
For Rent two-bedroom sign
'For Rent' sign.

Finding an apartment to rent is hard enough, but being unfairly evicted is a matter for dispute resolution with the Residential Tenancy Branch.

That's exactly what one Port Coquitlam woman did after getting tossed out of her apartment because a new owner wanted to move in.

Now, she's been awarded more than $22,000 — one year's worth of rent at the rate she was paying — after the landlord decided they didn't want to move in and ultimately gave the apartment to someone else.

While it's not unusual for purchasers to ask tenants to leave so they can live in an apartment, they can't simply leave the place vacant and re-rent it at a higher price a few weeks later.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, the new landlord has to live in the unit themselves for at least six months.

In a recent case posted online, a PoCo tenant found that the landlord never moved into the apartment after she was given two months' notice to leave.

In agreed upon facts, the tenant moved out on Feb. 28, 2021, and the landlord re-rented the unit on April 1.

The landlord said she was planning to move out of her family home with her child, but changed her mind out of concern about her daughter having to change schools and being away from her father.

She told the hearing she wanted to do what's best for her family.

But that wasn't enough of an extenuating reason to re-rent the apartment, according to the arbitrator, who said the landlord with "reasonable planning" could have "anticipated" the impacts of moving.

The tenant had been living in the unit for four years and had been paying more than $1,800 a month.

Under the Residential Tenancy Act, there are extenuating circumstances allowed for not moving into the apartment after purchasing — including a death or an emergency, such as the unit is destroyed in a wildfire.

Changing one's mind is not one of them, the decision notes.

The tenant won the arbitration, and $22,140 in compensation, equivalent to 12 months rent at the rate she was paying, plus a $100 filing fee.