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B.C. landlord fined $20K for 'invalid' eviction notices

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A New Westminster landlord was fined $20,500 for serving, then repealing, eviction notices to tenants.

It all stemmed from miscommunication between the City of New Westminster and the landlord, but no tenants were kicked out in the process.

United Revenue Properties mistakenly believed the city ordered an entire apartment building to be emptied as it tried to force the landlord to repair the building.

The Residential Tenancy Branch criticized the landlord for failing to get more information from the city before sending "invalid" one-month eviction notices to its tenants, according to a recently published decision.

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The city revoked the landlord's business licence in July because of substandard maintenance. The city then sent letters to the tenants, warning they could be evicted.

"With the cancellation of the business licence, your tenancy could be ended with a month's notice. As such, you should immediately seek assistance from non-profit housing providers with regard to exploring your housing options," the city erroneously informed tenants on July 26.

The city's involvement began in 2021 because the building needed repairs, but it's not clear from the decision what those repairs were or whether they've been completed.

The landlord took the letter to mean the tenants "would" be evicted, so each tenant was eventually given until Sept. 30 to find new housing. The landlord later repealed the notice when the residential tenancy branch investigators stepped in to clarify the City has no influence on tenancy law and evictions.

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The landlord also appeared to ignore numerous phone calls and emails from tenancy branch investigators in August and September, while also failing to clarify with the city whether tenants would be forced out, according to the decision.

Just one tenant moved out, but he was already in the process of finding a new home. The invalid eviction notice simply expedited his housing application, the landlord told the tenancy branch.

Despite the landlord's eventual realization that no one could be evicted, five tenants first challenged the invalid notices with the tenancy branch in September.

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United Revenue Properties was given five separate $4,100 administrative penalties, partly because the company failed to clarify with the city whether it would actually be forced to evict tenants.

The fines were issued Jan. 6 with a March 7 deadline, but it's not clear whether those fines have been paid yet.

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