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Opinion: It can cost a Burnaby landlord $10K-plus to evict a ‘tenant from hell’

One local landlord details how one bad tenant can push an owner to have to sell
Photo: For rent sign / Getty Images

My recent column about a Burnaby “tenant from hell” who left a tub running and went out for pizza – flooding a basement suite in the process – sparked a lot of response from tenant and landlords alike.

Both accused me of being “biased” against renters and landlords, which is because they are just basing their reaction on one columns. I’ve written dozens of columns in the past couple of years highlighting bad tenant and bad landlords. Readers have shared a lot of fascinating and disturbing stories about their experiences.

One landlord took issue with me about the Residential Tenancy Branch process. I had quoted some numbers from the provincial government about new staff being hired to speed up the process.

One landlord says the process has really bogged down during COVID-19, which has seen a temporary ban on evictions – in certain cases - and rent freezes.

The landlord, known as A., also details how difficult it is to get rid of a “tenant from hell.”

I’ll let this landlord explain.

“There are awful landlords, that’s for sure,” A. wrote. “There are also awful tenants. The information you quoted about how much quicker arbitration is happening now is dated information. Perhaps in 2017 it was faster than 2016 or possibly even up until early 2020. Since the pandemic, the wait times for arbitration have gone up dramatically and current wait times are four to six months.

“As a result of this it now takes that long plus then time to go to Supreme Court and hire a bailiff ($5-10k) to get a tenant evicted. Meanwhile, tenants can get away with not paying rent and causing all kinds of damage, even harassing and/or threatening landlords in some cases. So all told it’s likely going to cost landlords $10k+ (that is assuming rent owing is $5k or less which is unlikely) plus whatever the damages are.”

One major problem is even collecting damages from a tenant who has wrecked a rental unit.

“I have seen landlords whose homes have been completely destroyed and sure they can get a monetary order to recoup some of the costs but getting the money from these tenants is unlikely as they often leave without leaving a forwarding address and/or they have no income that can be garnished, and even trying to collect beyond sending them a ‘letter of demand’ as per the RTB, if they don’t voluntarily pay, then it can go to collections but this requires going to small claims and another lengthy process. The risk for landlords is at an all-time high.”

One thing I liked about A.’s response is that it isn’t just defending all landlords.

“The stereotype of landlords being rich a**holes of course is true, to some extent, and certainly for corporations that own many properties the money is the only incentive and being kind and humane rarely comes into play (though the management will make all the difference). Most landlords who actually care about their tenants and aren’t jerks are people who are just getting by, often renting their basement out or possibly with a second property (this is me and happened because i was too ill when we moved to sell - as a result we actually own very little of either of our homes and our budget is tight). The risk can put them into foreclosure and at worst cost them the home they live in. Some landlords have had trouble getting people out of homes they just bought, despite proper notice etc., so they are paying the mortgage and homeless. Landlords are selling in droves and many are choosing not to rent out basements suites or convert them back to single family homes which is decreasing the already small number of rentals available and resulting in higher rents.”

It’s a lot to digest there. Housing is heinously expensive, even for those who own – leaving little room for error for some landlords if anything goes wrong.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.