Tenancy Rights, Vancouver, BC Canada
December 10, 2015 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Tenancy Rights, Vancouver, BC Canada: falsely accused of smoking inside the suite. Recourse/ right to third party "testing?"

I've got three/four other crazy things in my life and I'm not thinking straight; hoping I can find some help here. Have been renting an appartment for over 6 years where the entire building is managed by a management company. The original management company recently became a "new" management company.

I've made HVAC noise complaints in the past and had resorted to pleading to the commercial tenant on the ground floor (a financial services company) to not keep changing their thermostat settings. The issue is mostly resolved.

Apparently the immediate downstairs tenant (not the financial institution) made a complaint against me and the management company scheduled a "routine maintenance inspection." I got this [pastebin] in the body of a letter emailed to me. I replied with this yesterday afternoon. I have not received further communication.

The "attached agreement" was not attached. I've previously read the hardcopy in detail and there were no explicit restrictions on smoking on outdoor areas. This is also not a downtown highrise with zero smoking policies.

I had a non-smoking friend inspect my apartment. No smoking smells whatsoever.

I'm really struggling month-to-month and cannot move out right away. I did not sleep at all last night.

I'm worried that this will turn into a their-word/ my-word in retaliation for my having made complaints. I don't want to come home from work one day to find myself evicted. Would I be able to request an independent third party (city inspector?) to arbitrate the decision?
posted by porpoise to Law & Government (8 answers total)
A few things to clarify, if you can:

1) So you do smoke, but you do it elsewhere? On a balcony, or entirely off the property, or what?
2) Do you have your original tenancy agreement? Does it have anything in it about smoking at all?
3) Did the landlord give you written notice that they were going to inspect the suite?
posted by majuju at 3:23 PM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

It is very hard to evict a tenant, so don't worry for now. According to the BC Landlord and Tenant Resources page, you have to have significantly bothered another tenant or caused significant damage.

Smoking Tenants in BC. They saw you left cigarettes out, and perhaps it was your jacket that smelled of cigarettes in your apartment. Talk to your landlord and be friendly to grease the wheel here and achieve some understanding of whether they're ok with your smoking outside.

Right to Quiet Enjoyment in BC. It is not possible to be 100% noise-free in an apartment complex. Other provinces have mandated "quiet time" but it does not appear that BC does. However, it appears that infrequent, temporary disturbance does not constitute a breach.

I think you just have new landlords and an extra-sensitive basement neighbor who probably complains a lot. Try to be more conscientious about the basement dweller, and actually talk to them to see if you can get them to come let you know when you're being too loud, rather than running to the Landlord to complain first. Talk to the landlords about whether they're ok with your smoking outside, and be prepared to start hunting for another place as though they can't evict you easily on these two bases, a pain-in-the-butt landlord is good cause to move on its own.

Did you know they were going to enter your suite? Because the Residential Tenancy Act of BC says they should have given you 24 hours' notice.
posted by lizbunny at 3:51 PM on December 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

The City Of Vancouver has zero involvment with this. Residential Tenancys in British Columbia are a provincial responsibilty, and are governed by the Residential Tenancy Act.

The Residential Tenancy Branch is the agency tasked with overseeing provisions of the Act, and their website is an excellent resource.

A good independent resource is the Tenant Resource And Advisory Centre.

Finally, you can stop worrying. There is no way that you will be ever be evicted over these issues. The smoking may or may not come into play, depending on your actual lease, however any concern here can easily be adressed. Mats on the floor will ameliorate any noise concerns about the weights.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:54 PM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oops. Last link should point here ... TRAC.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2015

You're not in a lower-rent place that somebody is actively trying to gentrify, are you? I ask because of stories like this. If you are, you'd be an eloquent advocate; I would, if there was any more noise about eviction, keep my nose clean and then go to the press.
posted by kmennie at 6:28 PM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Thank you all,

Yes, I'm a smoker but only outside on the balcony. I also take steps to minimize the spread of ash through using a water-based ashtray. I have the original tenancy agreement, have never signed a new one, and between that document and tenant-wide messages (not related to me) have always used language indicating the smoking "inside the suites" and "inside the building" are not permitted. I've also been called a "stealth smoker" as many people have commented that they can't believe that I'm a smoker (I don't smell of smoke unless you're in snogging distance). The neighbour to my right is a sweetheart and doesn't mind the smoking and has told me that she considers me a great and unobtrusive neighbour. Neighour to the left hasn't mentioned my smoking, but the previous neighbour on the left said that they never noticed.

Yes, the management company did send out >24 hour notice, however it was for a "routine maintenance inspection of all units" whereas the deficiency notification suggested that my unit was targeted for inspection as a result of a complaint (by immediate downstairs tenant).

I had forgotten about the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (! thanks ParieidoliaticBoy), but I recall that I had gotten zero response from them the last time I had contacted them (re: 2010 HVAC noise issue). Will definitely contact them again wrt third party assessment of odour.

I am/ was primarily worried that I had inadvertently embarrassed the person on the management company who was responsible for dealing with complaints, to her boss; she had ignored a couple of my emails and her boss found out after the fact from the commercial tenant on the ground floor from my personal plea, which I initiated when the contact person hadn't responded - the entire thing stinks of retaliation.

I have mats for the weights and I am confident that they weren't the source of the complaints, further leading me to worry about the management company's good faith. Instead, due to the aging 3-storey wood-frame building and the cooling weather, the floors now squeak (as they have last Winter) and the new-ish tenant downstairs may be inadvertently sensitive to the unexpected changes in the characteristics of the building; they wake up much earlier than I (5am-6am, which awakes me too) and I typically retire around 11pm-12am and get out of bed at 7am.

Although the building is getting up in years, with the financial services tenant on the ground floor and minor interior maintenance (painting - I initially thought that the "routine inspection" was part of the maintenance program), I don't expect an imminent tear-down for gentrification. However, the rent is rather good for the neighbourhood (which was already gentrified in the 70's/80's, if not earlier - Kitsilano), has only been raised once since I started tenancy, but I fully expect the highest-allowable rent increase to be enacted ever since I was informed that the management company is now "new management company."

Thank you, again, for the reassurances - if not assurance - that the management company isn't going to throw all of my stuff in the alley and change the locks while I'm at work.

*** Is it worthwhile to contact the management company and "formally dispute" their assessment that there was smoke odour inside the suite, or would this be counter productive? ***
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on December 10, 2015

At this point it's devolved into a you-said/they-said scenario. I might recommend smoking someplace that's not on your balcony to avoid the probable complaint from the neighbour below (might be the one to your left, but who knows, better to remove yourself from the scenario).

As for a third-party assessment, I think it's counter-productive to seek out someone to do such a thing. I'm not even sure what kind of inspector you'd be able to get for this sort of thing, let alone how much they'd charge.

If it's within your means you can call around and rent an ozone generator for $50 or so, and run that for a few hours. Producing a receipt to the management company should be enough evidence of trying to "remove the odours from the suite".
posted by majuju at 3:27 PM on December 11, 2015

kmennie nailed it.

Management company wants tenant churn so they can increase rates by more than the yearly indexed maximum, rather than early-stage "gentrification." I have no idea why they fired this across my bow; never received a follow-up communication. They sent a routine formal notice of a rent increase a few days later.

The Crazy suddenly got worse with the CDN $ falling and people get stars in their eyes. That lots of former homeowners who are renting now while deciding what to do next doesn't help, either.

"Landlords can exceed any given threshold when renting to new tenants. Some try to circumvent rent thresholds by offering leases that oblige tenants to vacate after a year, and negotiate a new-tenant lease if they wish to remain."

I guess I had better re-read that rent increase notice in greater detail...
posted by porpoise at 9:37 PM on January 21, 2016

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