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Landlord-tenant disputes still lack enforcement with 'enforcement act' registry, says renter

'It’s called the Monetary Judgment Enforcement Act. I guess I’m wondering, where’s the enforcement?'
Kahlil Ashanti has found a law aimed at protecting renters from unscrupulous evictions is difficult to enforce and poorly tracked by the B.C. government.

The B.C. government is creating a registry for monetary judgments stemming from small claims against individuals, including the likes of tenants and landlords, in hopes of making it easier to collect cash.

But Kahlil Ashanti, a Burnaby resident who recently had to take the most extreme measures to collect a $24,000 judgment from his landlord, says the registry accomplishes only the first step‚ if that, in an otherwise complex and time-consuming exercise.

After government passed the Money Judgment Enforcement Act on Oct. 26, the registry will come into force in 2025.

Monetary orders from judgments at the Residential Tenancy Branch or Civil Resolution Tribunal (small claims) will be authorized to be registered on behalf of a successful party.

Presently, the party had to take the judgment to the Supreme Court of B.C. to register it as an order against the debtor.

Ashanti says he’s puzzled how this achieves anything of substance.

“Everything they are talking about in this enforcement act sounds like complete [excrement]," he said.

“It doesn’t strike at the core of the issue, which is landlords can ignore these orders and it puts the onus on the tenant to go out and be Perry Mason, or Dog the Bounty Hunter — depending on how old you are, of course,” said Ashanti, who said he recognizes judgments “go both ways” but believes the system favours landlords, as tenants are less likely to be in a position to take the steps he did to collect a judgment.

“First of all,” said Ashanti, “a tenant has to pay $100 to file with the Residential Tenancy Branch and that step takes a tremendous amount of courage and balls.

“It’s not straight forward and it’s not easy. When you file, you have to give evidence and it’s not easy.”

Ashanti and his family were wrongfully evicted from their Burnaby home and so he filed a claim with the branch.

“I think there’s very few applications being made now because the average human being is afraid of confrontation and doesn’t have the time to go to the courthouse and file this paperwork. It’s time consuming, it’s intimidating and the average person in B.C. is not a paralegal,” he said.

After Ashanti won his case he describes a complex system to navigate.

First he had to get the order registered in court, which is what the new registry is now supposed to do; but after that the hard part commenced after the landlord refused to pay: Ashanti had to seek legal help; then, thanks to his flexible work hours, he made multiple time-consuming trips to courts to seek orders to garnish wages (that didn’t exist) or access accounts (that had no money). He then sought the landlord’s property.

“Now, I have to hire a bailiff. Do you know a bailiff? I don’t know a bailiff. I think I had to pay $350 to hire a bailiff.”

“Oh, and you can’t hire a bailiff without a written order. So I still have to go to court, again,” said Ashanti.

More paperwork ensued when the landlord sought a judicial review. When the landlord failed on that front Ashanti then had to file a payment hearing, which finally ended the collections saga.

“So, oh great I’ve got a monetary judgment. It’s called the Monetary Judgment Enforcement Act. I guess I’m wondering, where’s the enforcement?” he asks.

Ashanti says monetary orders need to be paid after a judgment, period.

“What if we make it so the landlord has to pay when and if there’s a judgment made against them? Otherwise, landlords have no consequences for ignoring what is supposed to be legally binding orders,” he said, again adding the case can be made for landlords collecting judgments from tenants.

“I think the improvements that need to be made is going to benefit both sides,” said Ashanti, who also proposes government create a digital registry for residential tenancy agreements.

“Why should people have to go to court in the first place?” he wonders.

Ashanti said after his experience he's become more vocal for tenants' rights and intends to speak, again, to Burnaby MLA Janet Routledge on the matter.

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