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B.C. homebuyer awarded more than $5K after seller failed to evict basement suite tenant

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The corporate seller of a B.C. home has been ordered to pay the buyer more than $5,000 for failing to evict a tenant who refused to leave.

Buyer Ahmed Ali took seller SL Trading Ltd. to the province's Civil Resolution Tribunal, alleging that the company had failed to meet its obligations under the contract of purchase and sale (CPS).

In a decision issued Monday, CRT member Peter Mennie found that Ali had proven his allegations on the balance of probabilities, ordering SL Trading to pay him a total of $5,448.14 in damages, interest and CRT fees.

BASEMENT TENANT REFUSED TO LEAVE

Mennie's decision does not specify where in B.C. the property is located. It does, however, indicate that Ali and SL Trading entered the CPS on April 13, 2021, and amended it on April 30 of that year to reflect a $5,000 reduction in the purchase price and SL Trading's agreement to "repair the property’s deck, boiler, and fireplace." The total purchase price is not specified in the decision.

Relevant sections of the CPS reproduced in Mennie's decision included that Ali would receive "vacant possession" of the home on Aug. 31, 2021, that SL Trading would ensure all appliances – including four stoves, four fridges, two washers and two dryers – would be in working order on that date, that SL Trading would remove all garbage from inside and outside the property, and that it would give eviction notices to the property's tenants.

SL Trading told the CRT that it served the tenants with notice on May 23, 2021, advising them to vacate the property by Aug. 15. The company said it did not receive any dispute notice from the basement tenant – who is unnamed in the decision – and believed that person would move out.

Undisputedly, the basement tenant did not move out. The day after he took possession, Ali began the process of evicting the tenant through the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch, a process that concluded on Nov. 30, 2021, according to the decision.

While SL Trading argued that Ali had assumed the tenancy when he purchased the home, Mennie disagreed.

"The emails in evidence make it clear that Mr. Ali and his realtor asked SL Trading multiple times to confirm that the basement tenant would leave before the possession date," Mennie's decision reads.

"When this did not happen, Mr. Ali’s lawyer informed SL Trading that Mr. Ali would complete the purchase under protest and without prejudice to his ability to sue for damages. Mr. Ali did not agree to assume the tenancy or waive his right under the CPS to vacant possession of the property."

Ali claimed $2,229.59 in costs associated with hiring a lawyer and going through the RTB process. Mennie found these costs had been proven and awarded them to Ali as compensation.

The tribunal member declined to award Ali the $4,225 he claimed for his own time associated with the RTB application – a figure calculated as $100 per hour for 42.25 hours.

"Mr. Ali has provided a breakdown of his time but has not explained why $100 is an appropriate hourly rate," the decision reads. "While I accept that the RTB matter was inconvenient to Mr. Ali, time spent dealing with such inconveniences is not compensable."

GARBAGE AND APPLIANCE ISSUES

Once he had successfully ejected the basement tenant from the property, Ali discovered that the washing machine and refrigerator used by the tenant were not working, and the stove was missing, according to the CRT decision.

SL Trading argued that these issues were the responsibility of the evicted tenant, but Mennie again disagreed, noting that there was a specific clause in the CPS that required the company to provide working appliances at the time Ali took possession.

Ali provided the tribunal with an invoice showing he paid $1,750 to purchase "a used stove, fridge, and washing machine" for the unit, and Mennie awarded him this amount in damages.

Similarly, Ali claimed $1,380 for the cost of removing "a large amount of garbage left behind the house, under the deck, and in the basement suite."

While SL Trading argued that Ali had viewed the property before entering the purchase agreement and agreed to purchase it "as is," Mennie found that photographs provided by Ali clearly showed the company had not adhered to the clause in the CPS requiring it to remove all garbage before Ali took possession.

The tribunal member awarded Ali the $1,380 he claimed, bringing the total amount of damages he had proven to $5,539.59. Because the CRT's small claims jurisdiction limits awards to $5,000 or less, Mennie reduced the amount to $5,000.

That limit doesn't apply to interest or reimbursement of CRT application fees, however. With $273.14 in interest and $175 in fees, the total amount SL Trading must pay Ali within 30 days of the decision is $5,448.14. 

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