'I have absolutely nothing': Single father alleges Surrey landlord forced him out illegally
A single father in Surrey, B.C. is alleging the owner of a condo unit he was renting forced him out of his home illegally and won't return his belongings.
Brandon Fielding said he was home sick Wednesday in his apartment in the Sunwest Estates on 103A Avenue in Guildford when one of the landlord's business partners showed up to do some renovation work in the unit.
Fielding claims the man hung around until about 5:30 p.m., when he left to pick up his daughter from school.
When he got back shortly after 6 p.m., Fielding alleges the landlord and another man had changed the locks and wouldn't let him into his apartment.
"I went inside and went upstairs and the landlord and his step-brother or some sort of family relation were they and said, 'Nope. We're changing the locks. You're not allowed in,'" he said. "At that point, I was upset. My daughter was crying. All I wanted to do is go in and feed her and play."
Fielding said spent the rest of the evening in the lobby of the building.
He said he called police on three occasions, triggering what he described as heated confrontations between the landlord and law enforcement.
"They were belligerent with police—yelling at them," he said. "At one point, my landlord was in handcuffs because they just couldn't take the yelling anymore."
Officers were ultimately unable to help Fielding get back into his home or even retrieve his belongings.
The building's property manager said he tried to vouch for the tenant, and was disappointed that the officers who showed up didn’t do more to help him.
"I was shocked the police acted in this way. They were nice, but their decision to throw (Fielding) out on the street, especially (when) he's pleading he has nowhere to go, he has a young daughter, it was touching," he said.
According to Fielding, the landlord said he would start moving his things out of the condo at 8 a.m. the following morning. Police advised Fielding to be there early and call them so they could supervise the move and make sure he got his possessions back, but the landlord allegedly refused to give him any of his things.
"I have nothing…I had to go buy new shoes, new clothes. I have absolutely nothing," he said, adding that he has no idea where the clothes, food, furniture, toys and other items that were in the home are.
Fielding is now paying nearly $130 a night to stay in a nearby hotel.
"Because these guys decided to go about things in a roundabout way and find some gray area where they could get away with it, they caused me to be homeless," he said.
According to documents from the Residential Tenancy Branch, the condo's original owner, Tim Karajaoaj, recently sold the unit. The new owner was set to take possession on Thursday.
Karajaoaj had issued Fielding an eviction notice in early January, giving him a month to move out. The form, however, was not filled in correctly, and Karajaoaj later issued a second eviction notice, this time giving Fielding two months to vacate the property.
The landlord testified to the RTB that the new owner wanted the unit to be empty when they took possession.
Fielding, however, took the matter to the RTB and was able to get both eviction notices overturned by an arbitrator who found that the one-month notice was incomplete and that the landlord had not provided enough evidence to prove the second one was warranted.
"I order that both the One Month Notice and the Two Month Notice be cancelled and that the tenancy continue in full force and effect until it is ended in accordance with the Act," the arbitrator wrote, also granting him $100 off April's rent, which Fielding has already paid, even though he only spent four days of the month in his apartment.
Fielding alleges that's when Karajaoaj took matters into his own hands.
In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Municipal Affair and Housing acknowledged the landlord's alleged actions are against the law, but said the province has little recourse until Fielding files another complaint with the RTB, which could take up to a month before it's even put in front of an arbitrator.
"This is not an acceptable situation. Residential Tenancy Branch staff are reaching out to this tenant to make sure he is aware of his options and see how they can help," a spokesperson said.
"This landlord did not have the authority to evict the tenant or change the locks and is acting unlawfully."
Andrew Sakamoto of the Tenant Resource Advisory Centre said Fielding can also seek compensation of the cost of the hotel and damages from the stress associated with losing his home.
"It's one of the most horrific experiences of any tenant to be illegally locked out of your home," he said.
Fielding said he's done everything by the book and simply wants his rights as a tenant protected.
And while police don't have the authority to get involved in civil disputes between landlords and tenants, Fielding said he doesn't understand why they won't enforce the law when it comes to his belongings.
"I've paid to have possession of that place—they've taken that away from me. I own all the property that was in there and they've taken that away from me without my consent. To me, that is just straight-up theft," he said.
Surrey RCMP have not responded to CTV's request for comment.
Now, Fielding says he just wants his things back so that he can find a place to settle down and take care of his child.
"I'm just a guy who goes to work and comes home and cleans his house and waits to spend time with his daughter," he said," That's all I have time for. That's all I want to do."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson and Jon Woodward