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Noise dispute between Surrey tenant and landlord spurs human rights complaint

The landlord was upstairs, the tenant was downstairs
BC Human Rights Tribunal (The Canadian Press)

A noisy neighbours dispute between a Surrey renter and her landlord resulted in a human rights case that’s been characterized as being “for all cases involving landlords and tenants.”

Tribunal member Shannon Beckett decided to “anonymize” both women, finding the tenant’s privacy interests outweigh “minimal public interest” and that publicly revealing the landlord’s name could potentially identify the tenant. Both parties, incidentally, opposed the other’s name being shielded against publication.

Beckett noted that the tenant argued that publication of her name would deter “vulnerable” tenants from pursuing their human rights, while the landlord argued that the tenant’s complaint is “not just between two individuals, but rather ‘it is for all cases involving landlords and tenants.’”

The landlord’s position was that if the tribunal decided not to publish the tenant’s name this would be “effectively encouraging people…to bring a complaint under Section 43 of the Code as a weapon at no cost whatsoever.”

Ultimately Beckett agreed with the tenant that her complaint essentially is “a private dispute between two parties, and the public interest in knowing the names of the parties is less than the public interest in knowing the nature of the complaint, arguments and disposition.”

READ ALSO: Human rights commissioner opposes end of mask mandate in B.C. health-care settings

Beckett in her reasons for decision noted that shortly after the landlord in April 2020 bought a house in Surrey, where the tenant had already been renting a basement suite, the tenant began complaining about “disruptive noise” from above her suite and informed the landlord she has disabilities “which required accommodation in the form of quiet living space.”

The complaints continued from July 2020 to December 2020, when the tenant threatened to file a human rights complaint if the landlord “failed to accommodate her by adequately soundproofing her suite.”

On that day, or the following day, the landlord gave the tenant an eviction notice, saying her father would be moving into the one-bedroom suite.

READ ALSO: B.C. boosts funding for Human Rights Tribunal to help tackle increased caseload

The renter then filed a complaint alleging she was being evicted for saying she might file a human rights complaint. The landlord then applied to have the retaliation complaint dismissed. Beckett decided to dismiss the retaliatory complaint as having “no reasonable prospect of success.”

Beckett found that “although the timing of the eviction notice, when considered on its own, could raise a reasonable inference that the eviction was retaliatory, I find that when considered in context of the whole of the evidence and materials before me, any possible inference would be rebutted.”

The landlord, she decided, had “at least some, legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for wanting the one bedroom suite for her family’s use.”

READ ALSO: Federal housing advocate reviewing ‘human rights crisis’ of homeless encampments

The landlord, who lived upstairs as did her father, told the tribunal she was concerned about her father’s vulnerability to COVID-19 because of his age and multiple health-related conditions and issued the eviction notice after finding out on that same day that her husband tested positive.

Beckett concluded that despite the timing of the eviction notice, the tenant would have “no reasonable prospect” of proving at a hearing that there is a “sufficient connection” between her eviction and a potential human rights complaint.

The tenant complained about noise from laundry room and bathroom pipes, “walking noise,” things being moved upstairs and “disruptive noise” from children coming from the suite upstairs.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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