B.C. landlord ordered to pay $11K denies she pressured tenant to move with newborn
A B.C. Human Rights Tribunal hearing room is shown in this file image from March 29, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. landlord who was ordered to pay thousands of dollars to a former tenant after the province's human rights tribunal found she pressured the woman to move out days after giving birth is filing for a judicial review of the decision.
Meltem Bahcheli, who owns an eight-unit apartment building in North Vancouver, says she feels events weren't portrayed accurately in a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision from Feb. 19.
In that decision, Bahcheli was ordered to pay nearly $11,000 for discriminating against her tenant Germaine Valdez because of her sex and family status, which Bahcheli strongly denies doing.
"I've never been accused of anything like this before in my life," she told CTV News Vancouver. "I've always had mostly positive relationships with my tenants. I think my tenants are fantastic."
Bahcheli said her side wasn't considered by the tribunal when the hearing took place in January because she didn't attend. In her decision, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau said she "was satisfied that (Bahcheli) had notice of the hearing."
But Bahcheli said she felt she wasn't served with the documents properly and couldn't find a lawyer in time. She also said she wanted the issues with the Valdez family "to all go away."
"I don't want to be a part of it," Bahcheli said. "I didn't do what she's accusing me of and this is taking up a considerable amount of my time that I don't think she deserves."
The incidents unfolded in 2018 after Valdez gave birth to her second child. She, her husband and their eight-year-old son were living in a one-bedroom unit at the time, which Bahcheli said wasn't large enough for a four-person family.
When the family first moved in, Bahcheli said she thought only Valdez and her son would be living there, even though three tenants were indicated on the lease. She also said she didn't know Valdez was pregnant when the family signed their lease with her.
"I never did notice that she was pregnant," Bahcheli said. "I was very happy for her and her family and I definitely expressed that, but I thought that that space was too small."
Bahcheli said she has two-bedroom units in her building, but none were available at the time the baby was born.
In her decision, Cousineau said there weren't issues with the tenancy until Valdez told Bahcheli she had had a baby and said that the birth "triggered (Bahcheli) to begin what would become a torrent of accusations" against the entire Valdez family.
Several text message exchanges between Valdez and Bahcheli are included in the tribunal documents and according to Cousineau's decision, the response Valdez received from Bahcheli after she had given birth was not positive.
"I think if you are now a family of four a one bedroom is too small," Bahcheli told Valdez in a text, according to the decision. The landlord went on to ask if the family had found another place to move to.
"I'm not OK with a family of four living in a one bedroom. That's not what I signed up for. You will need to start looking for a home that will accommodate a family of your size."
Cousineau's decision also says that Bahcheli told Valdez that if they didn't reach a mutual agreement for when to end the tenancy, she would evict the family.
"I can't understand how you thought it's a good idea to move into a home that's too small for your needs then trick someone onto doing business with you by lying to them," says another text message from Bahcheli included in the tribunal documents.
"It doesn't matter to me that you are sorry. You are a liar and I'm sorry for you that your lies cost your family a home."
Bahcheli said she couldn't verify any of the text messages included in the tribunal documents because they were on an old phone and she did not see them beforehand.
However, she says didn't harass the family or pressure them leave, so she's submitted a request to have the tribunal's decision reviewed.
"I definitely made it known to her that I wasn't going to be evicting her or pushing her or even pressuring her to move," she said.
"I just suggested that it was not a big enough space for four people and she agreed and on the basis of that discussion she gave notice then and there … I don't see how that results in discrimination."
CTV News Vancouver has reached out to Valdez's legal representation.