'The horror stories get worse and worse': Some tenants taking advantage of eviction ban
COQUITLAM, B.C. -- Landlords who are missing thousands of dollars in rent or who find their properties damaged or strewn with garbage are concerned some tenants are taking advantage of the eviction ban put in place during the pandemic.
As landlords in dispute with their tenants turn to the B.C. government rental supplement program, they find that if their tenant doesn’t pay rent — but also doesn’t apply — there’s no way they can access a program that is otherwise giving out millions.
"It’s been really horrible. It’s been super stressful," said Annika Mountain, who lives in one house in Coquitlam and rents a property with two suites. Her family bought the rental property late last year with a mortgage.
She applied for and received orders from the Residential Tenancy Branch granting her possession and telling her tenants to pay $9,700 they owed in March.
Mountain let her tenants stay during April — only to return to the property recently to find a shed piled high with garbage.
"I got a call from the RTB saying they were going to help me any way they could," she recalled. "But then they said, until the ban is lifted, there’s nothing they can do."
Evictions were banned in most circumstances in the province as part of public health measures to limit COVID-19 transmission and ensure that potentially sick people didn’t become homeless.
The provincial government created a temporary rental supplement program that gives each household that qualifies up to $500 per month towards their rent. The province says 70,000 applications have been received since April 9, and 52,000 payments have been made.
The province couldn’t provide a total dollar amount but the figures suggest it’s in the range of $26 million.
Landlords like Mountain won’t see any of that — the program requires the tenant to apply.
B.C.’s Ministry of Housing said tenants have to be the ones applying because the program is based on their ability to pay.
"Renters will be responsible for outstanding rent due after the state of emergency is lifted, but we recognize there will be a need for transition measures to support both renters and landlords, and we are looking at those now," the ministry said in a statement.
Another landlord, Vanessa Yawney, returned to her Creston property last month to discover a vanity ripped from the wall, a toilet in pieces in the backyard, and doors and drywall piled in the basement.
"It’s completely devastating," said Vanessa Yawney, who estimated the tenants caused $75,000 in damage. "I just started bawling. It’s unbelievable the damage they have done."
Evictions are allowed in "exceptional circumstances," including when an occupant’s safety is threatened, the property is put at significant risk, or extraordinary damage is done to the property.
Yawney applied, but was told by the RTB that damage wasn’t "extraordinary," she said. She said she "took matters into her own hands" to secure the eviction, and plans to move into the property when the pandemic is over.
Melissa Reddy, another landlord who lives in Burnaby and owns a townhouse in Abbotsford, said she is owed some $9,000.
"The horror stories get worse and worse. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one in this boat," she said.