(Bill and his neighbours at a press conference they held in January (The Volcano)
Last year, investor-landlords Bill Mitsui and Tyler Zhang purchased a low-rise apartment building in Maple Ridge and began intimidating vulnerable tenants to leave so that they could raise the rents without going through the trouble of finding a reason to serve a legal eviction.
Bill George is one of the many Cityviews tenants who has endured intimidation and bullying at the hands of Mitsui, Zhang, and the building manager, Josephine Rankin, who tried to pressure Bill to move into an old people’s home when he complained about the elevator often breaking down.
After the elevator broke down last fall, Mitsui and Zhang let it remain broken for nearly three months, during which Bill, who needs a scooter to get around and lives on the second floor, was trapped in his home. Then, to add insult to injury, on the one day that Bill was able to arrange leaving his home to attend a doctor’s appointment, the landlord later claimed that he had used the elevator “improperly” and charged him $100 without any evidence of damage or rationale for the amount. Bill paid the fee, fearing that if he didn’t, he might be evicted.
When Bill first spoke to the Eviction Defence Network in December, he said, “they’re pushing to get a bunch of us out,” recognizing that he’s in the same boat as all of his low-income neighbours. With EDN’s help, Bill filed a dispute against Cityviews, arguing that his right to quiet enjoyment had been violated by the elevator being broken for so long as well as from the unconscionable treatment he suffered at the hands of Mitsui, Zhang, and Rankin.
“Quiet enjoyment” refers to the legal right all tenants in BC have to enjoy their homes without unnecessary interference by their landlords. It’s defined in section 28 of the Residential Tenancy Act as the right to reasonable privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, exclusive possession of their rental unit, and use of the property’s common areas free from significant interference.
At the dispute hearing, Mitsui claimed that Bill had done over $3,000 worth of damage to the elevator, without providing any proof. He characterized the building manager, Rankin, as professional, which directly contradicted the testimony of an EDN organizer who had trouble delivering the hearing evidence to Rankin because she was so hostile and aggressive. Mitsui’s story changed throughout the hearing and he contradicted himself multiple times.
Luckily, Bill had a sympathetic arbitrator who found in his favour and ordered Mitsui to provide a written apology for his unconscionable treatment of Bill. The arbitrator also ordered Mitsui to pay $500 as compensation for Bill’s loss of quiet enjoyment, and another $450 for aggravated damages. The arbitrator wrote in the decision:
“I find that there is sufficient evidence before me that this was intentionally aggressive behaviour on the part of the Landlord’s agents, and I find that it amounts to a breach of the Tenant’s quiet enjoyment of his suite… As a result… I Order that the Landlord ensure that their agents stop further suggestions to the effect that the Tenant would be happier living elsewhere.”
The RTB decision is a significant win because Bill George isn’t the only tenant facing intimidation and harassment at Cityviews. His will to fight back shows his neighbours that bullies like Mitsui, Zhang, and Rankin aren’t as powerful as they try to make themselves out to be.
In the lead-up to the hearing, Bill’s landlord and building manager tried to threaten EDN organizers and stop them from visiting tenants in the building, going so far as to distribute a one-page notice falsely claiming that it was illegal for the EDN to help tenants. Bill’s victory better equips Cityviews tenants to call Mitsui’s bluff and fight his abuse on whatever fronts they can.