Two of the four long-term tenants of a century-old housing complex in a desirable beachside neighbourhood in Vancouver have been told they can stay in their homes after they contested an eviction notice from their landlord — a real estate investment firm that claimed to be moving family members into the dilapidated suites.
The B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch, which handles disputes between landlords and tenants, agreed with the two tenants' assessment that their landlords, members of the Jakovljevic family that owns Alberta-based Avala Equities, were unlikely to move into the suites at 1540 Yew St. in Kitsilano.
Tenants in four of the complex's 11 suites received the two-month notice for the landlord's use of the property last April. The tenants paid the least amount of monthly rent — less than $800 each — in a neighbourhood where rent for an apartment is usually around three times higher.
The decision notes that Avala Equities owner Vedran Jakovljevic is currently living in a 3,000-square-foot, $2.35-million home in West Vancouver that he purchased a year and a half ago. Although he argued that his financial picture had changed and he was trying to save money by moving into a smaller property, the decision says he didn't provide evidence to support that claim.
"On the basis of the size and quality of the home [Jakovljevic] is currently living in, I find it unbelievable that he will be moving into Unit 6 with his wife and three children, as it is very small," the adjudicator wrote.
"I find it likely that the two-month notice to end tenancy for landlord's use was served for an ulterior purpose, such as evicting a tenant who is paying low market rent."
The arbitrator noted similar reasoning for Dusan Jakovljevic, who had said he intended to move into a small, one-bedroom unit in the complex with his wife and two children.
But the arbitrator sided with Ivka and Cedomir Jakovljevic, the parents of Vedran and Dusan, who said they were planning to move into the other two units.
The rent they were paying for their current homes was not disproportionate to the amount for the suites in the Kitsilano complex they intended to occupy, the arbitrator explained.
The current tenants had argued that the suites in the century-old complex were dilapidated and lacked amenities like a dishwasher, bathroom sink and laundry.
They alleged the owners were being dishonest about their intentions to move in and were planning to renovate the property and charge much higher rents — a process known as "renoviction."
But the arbitrator said those goals weren't mutually exclusive.
"Even if the landlord has future plans to renovate this residential complex, I find it entirely possible that close family members of the landlord would like to occupy a unit(s) in the property while planning and completing those renovations," the arbitrator wrote.
Linda Millburn, 76, is one of the tenants whose eviction notice was upheld. Millburn has lived in her two-bedroom suite for 40 years and pays $719 a month in rent. She will have to leave by Oct. 31.
Millburn previously told CBC News that she didn't know where she would go if the eviction was upheld, given that rent in the city and the neighbourhood she calls home is so much more than what she's currently paying.
Liz Blackburn, whose mother lives in the main building of the complex, says the tenants were surprised by the decision.
"I think it's pretty remarkable that the arbitrator issued a bad faith decision but still permitted two of the evictions," Blackburn said. "I feel like the arbitration system is pretty broken."
Avala Equities did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News.