Landlord Smacked With $115,000 Fine After Angering Board

by Chris on March 26, 2012

A British Columbia landlord has been ordered to pay a $115,000 fine for failing to comply with an order from the Residential Tenancy Branch.

The hearing officer wanted to make one thing clear: This dispute is not between a landlord and tenant. It’s between a landlord and the government.

It’s a convoluted case that has been going on for 18 months or more — longer if you count a previous complaint.

A former tenant, who worked for the landlord at one time, complained about the building’s roofing issues. This tenant moved for dispute resolution. In the first hearing, the Tenancy Branch found it did not have jurisdiction, because the alleged leak was not affecting the tenant’s rental unit.

The tenant appealed to the Supreme Court, and in early 2011, that court reversed the earlier decision and ordered a new hearing. The new dispute resolution officer accepted a settlement between the parties. The landlord agreed to hire an engineer for a comprehensive roof inspection and recommendations about repair and maintenance. The landlord and tenant spelled out a complicated resolution which included numerous deadlines for compliance.

As time passed, the tenant scheduled another hearing to complain that the landlord was not complying with the order. The landlord complained that the tenant was interfering with the roofing contractor’s assessment by contacting him directly and providing additional information which the tenant believed to be true, but the landlord disputed.

At some point in this process, the file for the case had grown to more than 300 pages, and ultimately, the landlord was before the tribunal again — this time to consider whether he should be subject to an administrative penalty for failure to comply with previous orders.

One major issue in the case is whether the decisions regarding the roofing repairs where exaggerated because of a previous case involving the same landlord, but a different building. In that case, the roof failed, causing ceilings to collapse in individual units. Tenants were ordered out of the building, and the landlord was found negligent. He was ordered to pay compensation to the tenants. This occurred two years prior, and the landlord argued the two matters should not be intertwined.

In a lengthy written decision, the Residential Tenancy Branch ultimately agreed with the landlord on this point.

However, the landlord’s engineering report did indicate cause for the roof to be repaired, and the tribunal found that the landlord was delaying the inevitable costs while still collecting full rent from the existing tenants.

It was that economic benefit, along with procrastination, that contributed the most to the heftiness of the fine.

When assessing an administrative penalty, the Tenancy Branch officer must follow a strict guideline which requires assessing points for each category of infraction. Here, the landlord was assessed points in all 7 categories, which earned him a bonus $5,000 fine.

In addition, he scored 14 points overall, which requires a $500 fine. That fine, however is assessed daily. The dispute resolution officer determined that the landlord had failed to comply with the order for an engineering report by 220 days. In total, the landlord was assessed an administrative penalty of $115,000.

At this stage, the landlord has the right to appeal if he finds new evidence, or if he can show that the tenant’s evidence is fraudulent. He can also appeal to B.C.’s Supreme Court.

Alternatively, the Residential Tenancy Branch director has the authority to offer an agreement to settle the matter instead of enforcing the penalty. The landlord has been notified that the dispute resolution officer hearing this case has made recommendations to the director concerning such an agreement.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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