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Coquitlam landlord must pay tenants $30K after demolishing house

In losing the appeal, landlord misses filing date, fails to prove arbitrator was unreasonable, Supreme Court judge rules
Rear view of woman looking using smartphone while looking at real estate sign, planning to rent a house. | Getty Images, Oscar Wong

A Coquitlam landlord has lost an appeal and will have to pay $30,708 — a year’s rent — to two former tenants, B.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

The case, published online, stems from a May 30, 2022 decision by the B.C. Tenancy Branch to award William David McMaster and Cynthia-Lee Wohlford the funds in compensation for loss of tenancy after they were told to leave so the owner could move in.

However, according to the residential tenancy branch arbitrator at the time the owner took “no steps” to occupy the property after the sale.

The Residential Tenancy Act require them to live in the property for six months; instead, they knocked down the home and built a new one, which they moved into in October, 2022.

The arbitrator awarded McMaster and Wholford a year’s rent plus a $100 filing fee for $30,808.

Had the landlord’s stated reason for ending the tenancy been demolition, the property owner would have had to give the tenants four month’s notice, instead of just two.

According to information presented in the appeal, Aesuk Kim purchased the property at 710 Ivy Ave. Coquitlam and asked the sellers to inform McMaster and Wohlford to vacate the property by 1 p.m. on July 1, 2021.

The stated reason for requiring the tenants to leave was that the new owner, Kim, was going to move in.

But in her testimony, Kim said that she couldn’t move in because of “hazardous” materials such as asbestos, lead and ozone­-depleting substances that could cause “serious health issues.”

However, as the tenants were told the owner was moving in to the house, they noted the progress of the demolition, taking photographs which showed the house was demolished by Sept. 22, 2021.

They then followed up with a dispute to the residential tenancy branch on Oct. 19, 2021.

In her appeal, Kim argued that she was never properly served and didn’t know about the hearing, which took place in May 30, 2022, until she was informed about the arbitrator’s decision by the Land Title and Survey Office.

In her appeal, Kim asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the award on the grounds that the arbitrator took the tenants at their word that a registered letter was served to the address on the notice to end tenancy.

By then, Kim had moved.

A second notice of the hearing was also sent by registered mail but was returned to the tenants.

Still, the arbitrator agreed there was enough evidence indicating that the required notice of the hearing was made.

However, Kim argued the tribunal’s decision was “unreasonable” in light of evidence regarding hazardous material.

According to Kim, the tenancy branch arbitrator failed to observe the “principal of natural justice.”

However, in their decision, Supreme Court Justice Justice Hinkson stated that Kim waited too long to seek a judicial review —150 days instead of the required 60 — and didn’t provide any reasons for seeking an extension.

“I was not alerted to any serious grounds for relief, nor was I given any explanation for the delay,” the judge noted.

Kim also failed to seek alternate remedies available to her, and didn’t provide enough evidence as to why the arbitrator’s decision was “patently unreasonable.”

“There was also no indication that the Notice was returned to sender as was noted for the second letter sent in February 2022. While this is weak evidence, it is not “no evidence” as required for the decision to be patently unreasonable,” the ruling states.

Further, there was no effort to update tenants on the correct address that was listed in the notice to vacate.

The judge upheld the arbitrator’s decision requiring Kim to pay the tenants a year’s rent of $2,559 in monthly charges plus a $100 filing fee, for a $30,808 total.