VANCOUVER -- Restrictions designed to prevent tenants from ending up homeless and becoming vulnerable to COVID-19 appear to have backfired in one case – forcing some landlords out of their home instead.

Instead of self-isolating in their own Courtenay property, Kirk and Gunn Yardley are now in a hastily rented suite. They returned to Canada to find their tenants hadn’t left, and the legal eviction order they have is unenforceable.

“It’s shock, absolute shock,” said Gunn Yardley, who says her family is out close to $10,000 in lost rent. “I couldn’t believe that this was happening.”

The couple had rented their house to tenants for a six month term to pay for a trip to Mexico. Early rent cheques came in – but then stopped.

“They kept saying there would be money coming in, but the money didn’t,” said Kirk Yardley. “It was a short-term lease, they said they would get out at a certain date, but they did none of that.”

The Yardleys won an order of possession, which allows them to evict the tenants, in mid-March. Then came the pandemic.

Evictions were banned in most circumstances in the province as part of public health measures to limit COVID-19 transmission and to ensure that potentially sick people didn’t become homeless.

But the choice in their case is between having someone who has just been abroad try to find a new home, and someone who does not need to self-isolate, Gunn Yardley said.

The Residential Tenancy Board, which decides housing matters in B.C., should have the option to allow an eviction when a landlord is returning home, she said.

They are not the first landlords to cry foul that the eviction ban is being taken advantage of by potentially unscrupulous tenants. Landlords can also not enter properties without their tenants’ consent.

In one case, a Coquitlam woman could do nothing about the piles of garbage accumulating on her rental property.

A Creston, B.C. landlord returned earlier this year and found her bathroom taken apart and the toilet in pieces in the backyard. She later told CTV News the tenants left and she was able to return, but she estimated some $75,000 in damage.

Landlords can benefit from a temporary rental supplement program, which gives each household that qualifies up to $500 per month towards their rent.

But that program requires the tenants to apply – so if the tenant doesn’t apply, the landlord is out of pocket.

The tenants in the Yardley’s case sent CTV News an e-mail saying that they were “actively trying to find a place in a difficult market before the covid-19 pandemic made it essentially impossible to do so.”

The B.C. government is standing by the eviction ban as a public health measure, which it says is protecting tenants.

“Eviction notices served before March 30 are valid, but will not be enforced during the state of emergency,” a spokesperson said. “Landlords can try to work out a solution that works for both parties.”