A family of four in Surrey, BC recently received $27,717 from the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) after they were evicted in April 2022 when the home they were renting sold in a deal that was never completed.
The prospective buyer was ordered to pay compensation of 12 months’ rent, the usual penalty for wrongful eviction, even though they were unable to complete the free sale of subjects because their financing was not obtained. They also lost a $30,000 deposit.
The tenants, Marcia Rubio and Oscar Hierro, say they are happy with the arbitration award, but would have preferred to stay in the house, which was close to their children’s school and cost $450 less to rent than where they are now, farther away. away in Langley.
“We are very frustrated,” Rubio told Breaking:.
“It’s crazy out there. We’re very scared, very scared because [as renters] We have no stability, no security.”
Rubio says he has yet to hear from the buyers, Humaira Bashir and Shammas Cheema.
Cheema, a real estate agent who was added as a co-buyer after the initial offering and is therefore not listed in RTB’s decision, told Breaking: that he intends to appeal the decision.
Cheema said he had warned the seller that his financing might not come to fruition and that the seller should have warned the tenants.
“It is a very complicated situation because we have already lost money,” he said. “But in the end the court’s decision will be respected.”
The tenants had already moved out.
The offer for the townhome, according to the Residential Tenancy Branch’s decision, did not have any strings attached, meaning the buyers had to commit to the sale despite any financial or other concerns.
Cheema said the housing market was so active that such offers were de rigueur at the time. But then the market changed, and despite his initial confidence in his ability to finance the mortgage along with a co-buyer, he couldn’t make it.
The deal fell through at the last minute, according to Cheema and RTB’s decision, and by then the tenants had already moved out.
Rubio said her son’s birthday was at the end of the month and the family decided to move earlier to celebrate without the stress of an impending move.
The decision says that the responsibility to pay the penalty falls on the prospective buyer, because they required the landlord to issue a two-month notice to end the lease.
Breaking: contacted the seller, Prem Banwait, who was also the realtor and owner of the sale, but declined to comment.
Documents filed as part of the case that were shared with the CBC show that Banwait kept $30,000 of the deposit and returned another $10,000 to the buyers after the sale was cancelled.
The decision says Banwait waited for the sale to go through because “who would want to lose their deposit?”
Townhouse rented to new tenants
The house was rented shortly after the sale fell through.
The decision says that the seller told the arbitrator that he had to rent it back because, by not selling it, he still had to pay his mortgage.
The tenants did not know the sale had not gone through until a neighbor called to say their old home had been rented to new tenants, according to the decision.
When CBC contacted the real estate agent representing the buyers, Rizwan Khan, a colleague of Cheema’s at Woodhouse Realty Group, echoed Cheema’s sentiments that the seller should have put tenants on notice that the deal fell through. and that buyers should not be responsible for tenant compensation.
“Nothing wrong was done,” he told Breaking:.
Ending the lease is “a drastic step”
Rubio says she and her husband, Oscar Hierro, had been renting the house in Fleetwood since 2019.
RTB’s decision notes that they were paying $2,301 per month for the three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhome. The current tenants told Breaking: they are paying $2,900.
Robert Patterson, an attorney with the Tenant Resource and Advice Center, says British Columbia’s tenancy laws are pretty clear: If someone issues a notice to end the tenancy and then doesn’t follow through, there will be consequences.
Patterson said Residential Leasing Division arbitrators have discretion to make exceptions when there are extenuating circumstances, but the decision makes clear the buyers failed to adequately explain why their financing was not achieved.
“Whenever we talk about ending a lease, it’s always a drastic step. It’s always something that will have an incredible impact on the tenant,” he said.
“A person who issues an eviction notice or causes one to be issued must be very sure that they have adequate grounds for doing so and must know that they can accomplish the stated purpose.”
For Rubio and her husband, who now live further from their children’s school and pay nearly $500 more in rent each month, the consequences are clear.
Tired of the insecurities of the rental market in Metro Vancouver, she says the family plans to move to Alberta.