Judge deciding whether landlord-tenant law applies to YWCA

·2 min read

A Northwest Territories judge is now considering a decision that may have implications for the way temporary housing programs are run.

The case was initiated by the Northwest Territories YWCA. It's appealing a rental office decision that found it improperly evicted a tenant in its transitional housing program and ordered it to pay him $420 in compensation.

The money is not the issue. The YWCA is appealing because the rental officer found that the Residential Tenancies Act — which governs all landlord-tenant relations — applies to its transitional housing programs. The rental officer said the YWCA had failed to provide the notice of the eviction required under the Act and failed to get a rental office order authorizing the eviction.

The case began when a client in the YWCA's housing program complained to the rental office after he was evicted from his unit in the Simpson House Apartments in Yellowknife. The YWCA leased the unit from Northview Properties. The building is now owned by the Northview Canadian High Yield Residential Fund.

The man was notified he was being evicted in September 2019, days after he had a heated argument with his ex-spouse. Other residents overheard her threaten to burn down the building. They reported the threat to Northview.

The YWCA says that was the last straw after several complaints from other tenants about loud parties, damage and late night knocks on the man's ground floor apartment window.

Just a few days before there had been a fire at another Northview building, the Crestview Manor Apartments. A year earlier, a fire had destroyed the YWCA's Rockhill apartment building.

A few days after notifying the man he was being evicted, Northview changed the locks on the apartment unit. It also terminated its lease with the YWCA. Despite the new locks, the man kept returning to his unit until early October, when he was escorted out by the RCMP.

In court documents the YWCA says in a previous decision involving the Centre for Northern Families' eviction of a tenant, a rental officer had recognized the Residential Tenancies Act does not apply to transitional housing programs.

The YWCA said it needs the flexibility to act fast to ensure the safety and security of its housing clients.

The man is arguing that exemptions to Act only apply to programs that involve some kind of service, such as counselling, in addition to housing. They say the transitional housing program is strictly about accommodation.

The lawyers were in court to argue their case on Tuesday. Justice Karan Shaner said she will give her decision in writing, but did not say when.