SSICS Letter to AG / Minister Responsible for Housing re: Seabreeze

This past week has seen a flurry of communications from BC Housing and Lady Minto Hospital Foundation (LMHF) concerning the Seabreeze Inne and its tenants.

These communications identify plans related to eviction of the tenants to facilitate commencing the renovations of the Seabreeze for the purposes of staff housing for LMHF, as well as BC Housing plans to move tenants to temporary housing at Kings Lane by July 15th.

The role of Salt Spring Island Community Services (SSICS) is that of providing supports for some of the tenants currently at the Seabreeze Inne. Those, and other tenants with no affiliations with SSICS or BC Housing, have resided at the Seabreeze prior to the LMHF purchase in March of this year and were tenants of the previous owner on a month-to-month basis. Like any other common SRO (single room occupancy), their tenancy is covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). 

While SSICS is supportive of LMHF taking steps to address staff housing needs, we have serious concerns that the individual rights afforded tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act are not being observed. Our position is that, with a bit of patience and close adherence to the law, all parties will achieve a positive outcome. There need be no winners or losers, and no villains or victims.

As of June 30th no tenant at the Seabreeze has signed an individual agreement with the LMHF or BC Housing waiving their rights to protections under the RTA. No tenant at the Seabreeze has been given formal individual written notice to vacate. No Order of Possession has been issued to any tenant at the Seabreeze. The tenants have now been notified through the media that they will be moved in two weeks with no agreements, or even consultation in place.

BC Housing entered into a three-month lease agreement with LMHF for the entire property upon the closing of their purchase in March. The first term of this lease expired June 30th, and it was announced late in the day June 30th that it would then be extended to July 15th. LMHF has stated publicly that the lease agreement explicitly contained a clause that the RTA provisions did not apply.

It is a basic tenet of law, however, that no clause in this lease, or any lease for that matter, can circumvent the rights afforded to tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act. BC Housing and LMHF cannot decide that the RTA does not apply to situation of the tenants of the Seabreeze. The RTA is there for just this purpose – to protect tenants in situations like a renoviction. Unless those individual tenants have entered into mutually acceptable terms with the Landlord, they must be afforded the measures outlined in the RTA.

BC Housing and LMHF have both engaged in communications to the public and to the tenants deliberately omitting any reference to the RTA and their rights as tenants. Their messaging strongly suggests to the tenants that they have no option except to move. Both parties must be aware that the exclusion of this component of the scenario can be construed as a deliberate coercion to effectively pressure those tenants to vacate their homes without due process.

SSICS believes this is a matter of actual law, not to be tried in the court of public opinion and is urging all parties to pause until the status of the tenants at the Seabreeze, and the process to be observed is confirmed by the Residential Tenancy Branch.

 

Sincerely,

Rob Grant
Executive Director
Salt Spring Island Community Services