On January 16, 2015, Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) filed a petition for judicial review challenging the Residential Tenancy Branch’s (RTB) decision not to investigate a landlord concerning its treatment of vulnerable tenants following a fire at View Towers in Victoria.
The fire, which occurred on May 15, 2014, at one of the largest apartment buildings in Victoria, affected vulnerable low-income tenants, including seniors and people with disabilities, many of whom were displaced as a result.
In September 2014, TAPS asked the RTB to investigate the landlord, Westsea Construction Ltd. (Westsea), for alleged contraventions of the Residential Tenancy Act (Act), including providing misinformation about the state of suites and tenants’ personal property, coercing tenants into signing agreements to end their tenancies, and failing to provide tenants with access to their personal property. TAPS asked the RTB to impose financial penalties on Westsea if contraventions were found.
The RTB refused to investigate Westsea, finding that tenants could instead file individual dispute resolution applications against the landlord. TAPS’ judicial review asserts that sections of the Act allowing for investigations and financial penalties don’t depend on the outcome of individual dispute resolution proceedings, and that the RTB therefore made errors when deciding not to conduct an investigation. This case is an example of a law meant to protect vulnerable tenants going unenforced. TAPS hopes that the courts will use this unfortunate case to set an example, so that other landlords in BC take their responsibilities under the law seriously.
TAPS is receiving legal support in this proceeding from the good people at the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre. We cannot thank them enough for agreeing to help us in this important undertaking.