Calgary renter fights 90-day notice from her Sunnyside landlord

·5 min read
Calgary month-to-month renter Brianne Zimmerman warns renters to know their rights after fighting a contested notice by her landlord in a Sunnyside apartment. (Submitted by Brianne Zimmerman - image credit)
Calgary month-to-month renter Brianne Zimmerman warns renters to know their rights after fighting a contested notice by her landlord in a Sunnyside apartment. (Submitted by Brianne Zimmerman - image credit)

Brianne Zimmerman says she's not usually one to defy orders.

But the Calgary-based photographer says something didn't seem right about the notice her landlord slipped under her front door last March.

It stated she and her neighbours had to vacate their apartment suites in a Sunnyside building by June 30.

It didn't provide a reason.

Zimmerman says it caught many off guard, especially those who had lived in the building for more than 20 years.

So, after reaching out to Service Alberta, which oversees enforcement of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and related regulations, she learned the notice likely breached the act.

She says most of her neighbours, unaware of their rights, have already left.

She decided to stay put and fight back.

'Trying to bully us out'

Zimmerman says she moved to the walkup at 833 First Avenue N.W. five years ago and pays $750 for a two-bedroom older apartment.

"We did have a steal of a deal … for the last few years, we've been really lucky," Zimmerman said.

And up until this spring, she says she got along well with the landlord.

But she says since the building was sold and the landlord issued the notice in March, their relationship soured.

"It just really feels like they're counting on us not knowing our rights and trying to bully us out," said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says there have been no clear reasons provided for the notice. She suspects they are being pushed out to allow the new owners to make major renovations and jack up the rent.

Zimmerman and most of the other tenants in the building were on a month-to-month tenancy. Some other renters were on a fixed-term lease.

A fixed term doesn't require any notice — the tenants simply have to leave when their lease is not renewed.

However, the way a landlord terminates a month-to-month rental is clearly laid out in the RTA.

Month-to-month rights

First of all, a notice to end a month-to-month agreement can't just be slipped under the door.

According to Service Alberta, the notice must be either given in person, by registered mail, to another adult who lives with the tenant, posted in plain sight, or sent electronically with a notification of receipt required.

Secondly, the written notice must include a reason — which this one didn't.

And then depending on the reason — clearly laid out in the legislation — tenants get either 90 days or 365 days to vacate.

If the landlord or a relative of the landlord wants to move in, or the landlord intends to demolish the building that the tenant lives in, those are valid reasons for a 90-day notice.

Major renovations require 365 days' notice.

If you are going to be a landlord ... then you need to know the laws that regulate and govern this business and you need to follow them. - Gerry Baxter, Calgary Residential Rental Association

The head of the Calgary Residential Rental Association, which represents landlords, says if the renovations can't be done while the tenant is staying there, that's considered a major renovation.

"If a whole building's getting a notice to move, then the building is likely either being converted to condos or there's major renovations going to take place throughout the building," said Gerry Baxter, executive director of the association.

According to the RTA handbook, if the landlord gives less than 365 days' notice to terminate a tenancy so major renovations can be done or increases the rent after giving the notice, the landlord has committed an offence under the act.

"The bottom line is, if you are going to be a landlord and be in this business, because it is a business, then you need to know the laws that regulate and govern this business and you need to follow them," said Baxter.

Owners' response

Zimmerman and other tenants told CBC News that, after pressing for information, they've been told a variety of reasons, such as the building has been sold, there is a mould and mice infestation, or the new owners want to do some long-overdue maintenance.

Anna Khoutxaysana
Anna Khoutxaysana

CBC News reached out to the previous and new owners of the building at 833 First Avenue N.W.

The previous owners never responded.

The current owners and their lawyer did not want to speak on the record and didn't give permission to use their names. But CBC News confirmed through Alberta Land Titles documents that the lawyer representing the new owners is Corinna Lee.

Lee says the new owners had nothing to do with the 90-day notice.

And she tells CBC News that she agrees the notice was improperly issued. And with major renovations planned by the new owners, the month-to-month tenants should have received 365 days' notice.

They also say Zimmerman can stay.

They say it's the old owners who should have to answer for the termination of the agreement for the tenants who already left.

Zimmerman, who pays month-to-month, along with two other tenants, who are on fixed terms, are still living in the building.

The fixed-term leases expire at the end of August. The tenants must leave when their leases are up.

File a complaint

Zimmerman says she doesn't begrudge the new owners for wanting to do major renovations and upping the rent. She says she just wishes the whole process had been done properly.

She's since filed a consumer complaint through the Consumer Protection Act and Service Alberta.

Other options for tenants include applying to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service or court for a remedy.

The province says if a complaint is filed with the consumer investigations unit, and the landlord is found to be guilty of an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act, they could face a fine of up to $10,000.

Baxter says tenants can also lodge a complaint with the Real Estate Council of Alberta if the landlord or property manager is licensed with the council.

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