Where to get help when you're in a battle with your landlord
Pam and Tony Prior are on a fixed income and every dollar counts, so when faced with a rent increase, they decided they had to move. They found a cheaper place - a one-bedroom in Twsawwassen that cost about $200 per month less than the rent they were facing at the Fraser Place Apartments in Richmond.
In mid-June, they handed in their keys and moved out. Although the Priors had paid their rent in full to the end of the month, they say the manager of the apartment complex told them that if their suite was re-rented before the end of the month, they’d be issued a refund.
They waited, made some calls to management and then waited some more. After more than two months, they called McLaughlin on Your Side looking for help.
“They're just fobbing us off, fobbing us off and excuse, excuse, excuse," said Tony Prior.
"Five hundred dollars is probably nothing to them but it's a lot to us," Pam added.
The Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, or TRAC, says the couple should have gotten their refund agreement in writing but told CTV News that if the landlord rented the place right away, the couple should be reimbursed.
"They're not allowed to double dip," said TRAC Executive Director Andrew Sakamoto. “They haven't lost any rental income and therefore can't go after the tenants for any money."
However, Sakamoto says there is nothing in B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act that addresses when the landlord should have to return any unused rent payment.
"I would say that the landlord should return the money within a reasonable time period, but there's nothing explicitly written in the act about that," he said.
When disputes arise, tenants can reach out to TRAC for help to resolve them. The centre also has a lawyer on staff to help take unresolved cases to arbitration. The Residential Tenancy Branch added 11 more arbitrators this year to help clear a backlog of cases, but can still take some time and effort to get through the process.
So, CTV reached out to the landlord to try to help speed things along. The very same day, the Priors got a call from the apartment manager saying a cheque would be sent in the mail.
There were still issues getting it sent to them, but after another 30 days the Priors got a refund of nearly $400.
"It just shouldn't have taken so long they need to get their act together," Tony said.
The company managing the property never did respond to our requests for comment, but the Priors are glad that we got involved.
"We really appreciate it," said Pam.