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B.C. landlord must pay renter over $25,000 for illegal rent hikes, notice to end tenancy

The landlords claimed they needed the space for personal use - but the RTB did not believe them.
A B.C. renter will get a large sum of money from their prior landlord for over a year of illegal rent increases and for being asked to leave under dubious circumstances.

A B.C. landlord was ordered to pay their tenant over $25,000 after issuing illegal rental increases and notice to end the tenancy. 

Tenant A.G. says they lived in a rental unit for five years without issue before their landlords (D.M. and M.L.) issued a two-month notice to end the tenancy in June 2021.

The landlord said the monthly rent ($1,850) was well below market value and asked A.G. to pay $2,300 instead. A.G. was concerned about moving and agreed to pay an additional $250, making the new total $2,100. 

A.G. tried to contact the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for help but waited on the phone for a couple of hours and didn't try calling again until 13 months later. They were told that landlords must provide rental increases on a standardized form and give tenants three months' notice of an increase. They were also unaware of the rent freeze during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The renter made the current application wherein they sought compensation for $3,250.00 representing the $250.00 per month for the 13 months they paid the illegal rent increase.

The landlord issued a second two-month notice to end the tenancy a year later in May 2022. A.G. was told they wanted to occupy the unit for personal use because M.L. was pregnant. 

According to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), a landlord may end a tenancy if the landlord or a close family member is going to occupy the rental unit.

The landlord provided three options to end the tenancy and A.G. exercised their option to end it early and gave a 10-day notice on June 20, 2022. They also received one month's rent in compensation.

After they moved out, A.G. said it was evident that no one had moved into their former unit. The neighbour said, "It was clear there was no one there, aside from the people on the property doing renovations and yard maintenance." Additionally, they knocked on the door numerous times and no one answered. 

A.G. also saw the property listed for sale online in October 2022 by D.M., who is one of the landlords and a realtor. In a YouTube video, the unit appeared significantly renovated. While the property did not sell, he believes it "has now been rented out to third parties for $3,600."

Landlords weigh in on illegal rental increases

Landlord D.M. said she didn't know there was a rent freeze when she issued the $250 increase and that it was "always M.L.'s intention to occupy the rental unit." 

When the landlords issued a two-month notice in June 2021, M.L. was pregnant and intended to move into the unit because her apartment was too small. However, she decided to wait a year because the baby was small.

D.M. provided a WhatsApp conversation confirming the tenant’s agreement to pay the increased rent.

In response to A.G.'s suspicion that the property was not occupied after they left, the landlords provided copies of a "Rogers cell phone bill, an electrical bill, and photos of the interior of the home."

M.L. added that she and her partner were having relationship issues and she eventually had to move back in with her mother. She said they also listed the house during this time due to these reasons.

In response to M.L.'s claims, A.G. said the Rogers bill was for a mobile phone rather than a landline, meaning it could be used anywhere. The hydro bills also show a three-month charge of $70 or $20 a month; A.G. said he paid around $150 a month over the six or seven years he lived there.

A.G. also believes they had always intended to flip the house and the extensive renovations on the unit could only have been achieved with no one living in the unit.

RTB sides with tenant in B.C. rental increase case

The RTB ruled in favour of the tenant, noting that the landlord never issued a notice of rent increase on the appropriate form and that they raised it during the pandemic rent freeze.

While the landlord argued that the tenant agreed to the illegal rent increase, "the Act is clear that, even in the instance of an agreed rent increase, the notice of rent increase must be in the approved form as provided for in section 42, in this case, the landlords did not issue a notice in the approved form," the RTB stated in its ruling.

A.G. was asking for $3,250.00 in compensation for the amount they were asked to pay over the allowable amount and compensation for the property not being used for the purpose stated on the two-month notice. 

The RTB wasn't persuaded by the landlord's submissions, which included photos of the home that appeared to be taken for "staging purposes" and did not include personal items like clothing, art, or photos. It also sided with the tenant regarding the mobile phone and low electrical bill, which it noted did not prove M.L. occupied the unit.

The RTB said it was unfortunate that one of the landlord's relationships ended after the tenancy but wasn't convinced that this is why the property was listed for sale. Instead, it found it more likely that they issued the two-month notice and intended to renovate the unit and list it for sale.

The tenant was awarded compensation for any amount they paid over $1,850.00 ($3,250), recovery of their $100 filing fee, and $22,200 representing 12 months of rent at $1,850.00.

The RTB granted the renter a total of $25,550 on January 8, 2024.