Vancouver landlord stuck with scammer tenant
Salim Lakhani, who rents one of his condos to a woman who confessed to rental fraud to 24 hours, said the slow police investigation and backlogs in the Residential Tenancy Branch mean he can do little to stop her. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
"I believe in tenants' rights, but in B.C. tenants have so many rights that landlords can't do their job." — Salim Lakhani, landlord
The landlord of a woman accused of accepting damage deposits under false pretences wants rental laws changed so it’s easier to evict tenants in such cases.
Salim Lakhani rents a condo to Ruby Gifford, and several renters told 24 hours she allegedly posed as a landlord. Lakhani said the slow police investigation and “loopholes” in the Residential Tenancy Act mean he can do little to evict his tenant.
“The problem is there are multiple victims and it will keep going on unless people stand up and talk about it,” he said.
He said the Residential Tenancy Branch told him his only recourse is to request a 30-day notice to vacate.
Hunter Boucher, member services manager for LandlordBC, a 3,200-member umbrella organization, said he has seen a “few” similar cases and agreed there is little to do beyond filing for a 30-day eviction notice, known as an “order to possess.
“If the tenant were to dispute it, it's possible it could be a few months,” Boucher said. “The Residential Tenancy Act doesn't necessarily provide a lot of protection in that regard.”
He argued the problem is not with the RTB, the provincial agency that deals with tenant-landlord disputes, but rather with the B.C. government's freeze on new hirings at the branch, he said.
That's led to a severe backlog in agency hearings.
“It's a backlog that is definitely hindering landlords' abilities to get proper justice,” he said. “We would like to have shorter wait times for hearings, that affects tenants and landlords. Part of fair justice is timely justice.”
LandlordBC has a seemingly unlikely ally in that fight — Tom Durning of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
“They're supposed to run a dispute system on eight million bucks?” asked Durning. “We think they should double the funding.”
But Durning raised some red flags about making it easier for landlords to summarily evict tenants suspected of illegal activities, including fraud.
“Everyone is entitled to their day in court,” he said. “Scams like this are fraud. If people are getting thousands in deposits, they are probably not worried about having a hearing and getting evicted. It's not on their minds.”
Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham said officers “are currently investigating a number of cases where a woman in Vancouver has been placing online ads to rent an apartment, accepting money and then defaulting on the property.”
In an email, a BC Housing spokeswoman said that the allegations appear to be criminal and therefore "outside the jurisdiction of the Residential Tenancy Act. It isn’t an issue between a landlord and a tenant."
The RTB did not comment by press time.