A man with mental health issues has been evicted from his apartment of ten years due to a clerical error, his housing advocate argued.
Curtis Lachance was living in the Cityviews Village apartment building on 223rd Street in Maple Ridge until Monday afternoon, when he was removed from the bachelor suite by a bailiff.
Lachance tried to remain in the apartment – hoping a last-minute miracle could allow him to stay – but it was not to be.
“I kept the door locked, but [the bailiff] broke through the screen,” he said while sitting against the wall in the first floor hallway of the building waiting for a lift.
His mother, Joyce Lachance, and Listen Chen, who has been an advocate for homeless and low income people, stood nearby.
Everyone appeared downcast.
Joyce had discussed her son’s situation at a rally in front of the apartment building on Jan. 19.
A small group of tenants were protesting what they called “pressure tactics” by the new owners of the building to evict low-income renters.
She explained Curtis, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, was having his rent paid directly to the landlord by welfare.
After CWI Columbia Properties bought the apartment building in September, there was a mix-up with his rent check payments for October and November, as his welfare provider was unaware of the change in ownership.
So, when Curtis received letters from the new landlords explaining the rent had not been paid, he did not understand why.
His mother said he was never told he would have to switch payment information.
“The more stuff you put on him, the more stressed he gets,” Joyce said.
As soon as she discovered the mix-up, Joyce paid the two months rent, but Curtis was still served with an order of possession over failure to pay rent, signifying he was to be evicted.
In an email to The News on Jan. 20, property manager Bill Mitsui said, “I hope we can help the tenant resolve this issue ASAP.”
His mother said the owners of Cityview Village were uninterested in reversing the eviction order.
She, and Chen met with them on Friday, Jan. 29, but Joyce insists nothing was resolved.
She said the property managers offered her $100 for moving expenses, but did not offer to allow Curtis to stay in the building.
“We didn’t get anywhere,” she said.
Curtis now has to live with his parents in Port Coquitlam.
“We don’t have the room, but what are you going to do?”
“He can’t be outside with the homeless people,” she said. “He’s got to be with us.”
Curtis was paying $618 a month for his bachelor apartment, and it is unlikely he will find something in that price range again.
“I’m stressed,” he said.
“I’ve been trying hard just to keep myself calm.”
Chen said they tried to help Curtis through legal channels with the Residential Tenancy Branch, but nothing worked.
“We did apply for a review of the decision that allowed the landlords to get that order of possession, even though he had already paid his rent in full,” Chen said.
“The problem with those direct requests is that tenants are not invited to come, so we have no idea what the landlord said to get this possession.”
The application was past the deadline, and the RTB adjudicator flatly dismissed it, Chen noted.
“Because the rules require that you have to have exceptional circumstances – like if you’re in a hospital for 15 days straight – so there’s no wiggle room for people who clearly have barriers to accessing the law to make those applications, which Curtis does,” Chen said.
The housing advocate explained they will be the filing complaints with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, as well the Office of the BC Ombudsperson.
“Those are the two legal avenues, but the eviction itself is a done deal,” Chen said.
Mitsui said he feels sorry for Curtis in an email to The News.
“[I] regret that things have been dealt with this way,” he wrote. “This was not what we expected and wanted.”
He said the company was “hoping to help the tenant resolve the issue ASAP,” but noted a difficulty in arranging a meeting with Curtis’ family.
When they were finally able to meet face-to-face, Mitsui acknowledged the company offered $100 towards the move, and said he thought Curtis was planning to move out.
“I have the impression that both parties wish to let the tenant relocate to another place before Feb. 2021,” he wrote.
He also reiterated the company only heard about Curtis’ mental health issues recently, and said, “The property managers at this building were not trained/licensed to deal with patients with mental health issues.”
“We proceeded with Supreme Court Bailiffs services on Feb. 01, 2021,” he wrote.
“Again, I feel sorry for Curtis Lachance and regret that things have been dealt with this way.”
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