Evictions and Penalties: What is fair?

According to the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, complaints over wrongful evictions in the Vancouver area have increased dramatically in relation to the recent increases in Vancouver rental housing prices of recent months. A new landlord can set rent to whatever price they want; whereas there are strict rules for how quickly rental costs can be increased on an existing tenant.

Some are saying that penalties for landlords who break the rules of the Tenancy Act are far too lax – a mere two month’s rent in compensation to the previous tenant. In one such recent case, a Ms.Gazzola was given two months to remove herself from the home she had lived in for almost thirty years, with the excuse that the house had been sold and that the buyer’s family was to be living in the home. When the sale was finalized, it turned out to be new, more higher-paying tenants who moved in. This called for an appeal to be filed for compensation for the loss of her home.

If the appeal is awarded in favor of Ms.Gazzola, the new owners of the house will be required to pay her two months’ rent – an amount that they can easily and quickly recoup through the new high amount they are changing for rent; and an amount that some believe is not enough for Ms.Gazzola to have had to move over 45 minutes away, to a house with a steeper rental cost.

A group aimed at protecting tenants’ rights, the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, exists to help people such as Ms.Gazzola. According the group, there has been a large increase in the amount of calls about “bad” evictions in the last year – jumping from 62 calls in a year, to 152 calls the next.

The current shortage of rental housing in Vancouver is a likely candidate to have contributed to the increase in poorly-evicted tenants – the number of applications to dispute eviction notices was well over 4,500 between August 2015 and July 2016. However, the tenancy branch could not comment on that number in relation to previous years as they had since changed their method of data collection. It is possible that this number is higher this year due to an extreme shortage of available suitable rentals – people are getting desperate, and are becoming more willing to pay steep rental prices just to get themselves and their families into a home.

These increased rental prices make it easier for a landlord to break the rules – as they know they can easily cover the costs of a penalty if they end up losing the case. Though, according to the Tenancy Branch, a large portion (18 percent) of the decisions do go in favor of the evicted tenants. Fifty-five percent end up being dismissed, sixteen percent are resolved by settlement, and only ten percent end up in favor of the landlord.

The tenancy branch remains strong that the Tenancy Act, and its subsequent penalties, is fair and balanced.

What are your thoughts on the penalties for “wrongful” evictions? Have you been in either side of this situation?  Tell us your stories below!