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Kelowna renters fined for stiffing four landlords

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

Two Kelowna renters have been fined $2,500 after skipping payments to four different landlords.

The order followed a Residential Tenancy Branch investigation, which was spurred by their call to report a landlord who shut off their utilities.

Jonathan Harkness and Crystal Olson called the Residential Tenancy Branch in February when their water, power and heat was shut off. By that time, they were already facing potential eviction and owed more than $7,000 in unpaid rent, according to a recently published decision.

The Residential Tenancy Branch's enforcement unit issued a fine to the renters on August 31, noting they showed a "complete lack of remorse" for the impact on their landlords.

Harkness and Olson's most recent of the four disputes began with a tenancy that started in February 2022. They subleased a suite for $2,400 per month, but soon stopped paying.

They already owed thousands in unpaid rent before the landlord shut off water and electricity to the house in January. They were then given an eviction notice. Their appeal of that notice only extended the impending eviction before they were ordered to leave in June.

Harkness and Olson refused to pay a total $10,428 to four separate landlords from September 2018 to June 2023, according to the enforcement decision.

"The rental market in the province of BC is facing unprecedented challenges with a lack of affordable rental housing, and many families are experiencing challenges.... However, that does not absolve the respondents from the requirement to pay rent when entering a tenancy," Scott McGregor, director of compliance and enforcement for the Residential Tenancy Branch, said in his decision.

Harkness and Olson said they are now homeless after the most recent eviction so a fine would be futile. McGregor noted, however, they agreed they must be able to afford rent on time when becoming a tenant in the first place.

"The act is not open to interpretation and tenants are required to pay rent," he said.

They were given until Oct. 30 to pay the $2,500 fine.

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