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B.C. family that had to vacate house so new owner could move in says rent raised instead


When Natalie Egger, her husband and their five children left their Surrey, B.C., rental home of just over two years last fall, it was because the house on 24A Avenue had been sold, and they were told the new owner would be moving in.

“We found another property as soon as possible, which was very difficult,” she said. “We were given two months’ notice to vacate the property.”

That notice was delivered last September on a form used to end tenancy for “landlord’s use of property.” In this case, it indicated the buyer or a close family member intended to live there.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, if that doesn’t happen within a reasonable period of time after the notice period ends, or for at least six months, the tenant can receive a year’s rent in compensation. The onus of proof is on the landlord or owner at an arbitration hearing. An arbitrator can also excuse a landlord from paying compensation if there are “extenuating circumstances,” according to the government website.

Egger said days after the stated vacancy date in December, She and her husband discovered the house being advertised for rent online, for nearly $2,000 more a month.

“I was shocked, honestly, “ she said. “It’s really frustrating because once I started talking to other people about this, more and more people were coming forward saying yeah, I’ve had the same problem.”

Egger is now pursuing arbitration through the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), but said they’ve been trying to contact the homeowner to serve notice for months. They sent registered mail to the property in the owner’s name which was returned, searched for them online, and tried asking people connected with the property to help them.

“We reached out to both real estate agents…nobody would help us. They told us they didn’t have to give any information,” she said. “We reached out to our previous landlord, asking if he had any information. We actually went to the new tenants and asked if they had contact information.”


Robert Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), said it’s certainly not uncommon to see situations where it’s challenging for tenants to track down previous landlords or homebuyers.

“In some cases, where the registered owner might indicate that they actually live at that property, but the tenant finds out that they don’t, they then might have to take further steps,” he said. “For many people, that requires an investment of time and sometimes resources, if you have to hire a skip tracer or a process server, that they might not otherwise have so it does definitely represent a barrier of access to justice.”

Patterson said there is also an option to apply to the branch for “substituted service,” and essentially seek approval to try and serve the other party in another way.

“They have to explain what attempts they’ve tried to serve the other party, and then explain how they want to serve them, and explain finally how they think that alternate means of service will result in the person actually getting notice of the legal proceeding,” Patterson said. “One problem and one concern we have is it seems the Residential Tenancy Branch only really deals with this question in the actual hearing…so it kind of requires tenants to put everything on the line.”

Patterson said a simple change that could be made by government to try and avoid situations where a landlord or new owner raises rent instead of moving in following ending a tenancy would be to make them apply at the RTB beforehand.

“They have already done this with renovictions and we’ve seen the number of bad faith renovictions drop off a cliff,” he said. “I think by requiring landlords to begin the legal process by filing documents, you really weed out a lot of bad actors.”

CTV News called the phone number listed on the previous online ad for the rental home, and connected with the homeowner, who said they do intend to live in the house although they are not there currently, and plan on moving in soon.

Egger recently found another means of trying to serve notice to the owner, and intends to see the process through to their scheduled hearing in October.

“If we have laws in place, that are supposed to not only protect landlords but also protect tenants, why is nobody doing anything about this,” she said. “I want this to change.”


Patterson said since more restrictions have been put in place regarding renovictions, they’ve seen a “significant uptick” in the number of cases where rent is raised after a tenancy is ended on the pretence of having a landlord or owner move in.

“The sheer volume of cases out there indicate this is a pretty big problem,” he said. “In an ideal world, there (are) two significant changes that we’d like to see at the Residential Tenancy Branch. One would be a significant upgrade to the number of arbitrators and the training they get. Right now claims at the RTB are taking a long time to process.”

Patterson said they’d also like to see increased resources and support for the RTB’s compliance and enforcement unit, which is tasked with trying to intervene in disputes before they end up at arbitration.

“However, it’s a very small part of the branch. It’s, I think, criminally underfunded and undersupported,” he said. “It needs to be much bigger to accomplish its goal.”

Patterson is also encouraging tenants who find themselves in this situations to get in touch with TRAC for help at 604-255-0546 or 1-800-665-1185. Top Stories

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