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Burnaby tenant 'lawyering up' after landlord's threats for using an air conditioner

Renter was willing to pay the extra utilities and fears she'll be evicted
2018-06-12 air conditioner
Air conditioner. Photo/ iStock

A Burnaby tenant says she is “lawyering up” after being threatened with eviction by her landlord for buying and using an air conditioner during the recent heat wave.

Sasha S. (she didn’t want her last name used) contacted the NOW after reading a story on the NOW website about another renter being given an eviction notice for using an air conditioner and an electric fan.

“I’m worried the same thing will happen to me,” said Sasha, who lives in a basement suite. “I bought an air conditioner when I first heard about the heat wave coming. (On Tuesday) my landlord found out I was using it and he flipped. He started making all these threats because I pay a set amount for utilities each month. The AC is the only reasoned I survived and I want to keep it but he wants me to get rid of it ‘or else.’”

Sasha contacted the NOW after reading about Cole L. (last name omitted for privacy), a renter in North Surrey who last week posted a photo of a month’s notice to end tenancy served to them by their landlord. The letter seems to be the culmination of an ongoing dispute between Cole and their landlord relating to utility usage over the past few weeks. The reason for the notice? That Cole had allegedly “significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another occupant or the landlord.” Next to this option on the notice of eviction the landlord wrote in brackets “abussing [sic] electricity.”

Cole had an air conditioner and was told to get rid of it.

Cole then says they spoke to a Residential Tenancy Board (RTB) information officer to make sure they would be allowed to use the unit. Cole says the RTB told them the letter from the landlord was unenforceable. 

Later, Cole placed a fan in the living room for their roommate. Soon after that, Cole got the eviction notice. 

The landlord wrote in the notice that the fan in the living room seemed to be “running on all day and night.” The notice again cites utility costs as the reason for eviction. 

Sasha said she was willing to pay more for utilities, but is digging in her heels now because of the threats from the landlord. She says she has it in writing about what she will pay each month for utilities.

“I’m hoping he calms down so we can discuss this again,” Sasha said. “I should be able to live comfortably when it’s hot.”

The Attorney General and Ministry responsible for Housing described to Glacier Media what would happen next for a tenant receiving such a notice. Generally speaking, once a tenant has disputed a notice of eviction, the burden is on the landlord to establish they have valid grounds to end the tenancy based on the tenant’s actions.

“The arbitrator would make a decision on the case, and would have to consider the context of the case in its entirety to determine what is reasonable,” the statement reads. “Disagreements between landlords and tenants can often relate to utility use. We encourage landlords and tenants to make clear what services and utilities are included as part of the rent in their tenancy agreement by putting it in writing.”

  • With additional reporting by Cameron Thomson