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Nanaimo landlord fined $17,000 for illegal eviction of dying tenant

Landlord cut off power, changed locks
A Nanaimo landlord was fined more than $17,000 by the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch’s compliance and enforcement unit. (Stock photo)

A Nanaimo landlord has been fined more than $17,000 after improperly evicting a dying tenant, cutting off power, changing the lock and preventing access to personal belongings.

The B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch issued an administrative penalty last month to Duart Rapton and found six contraventions of the residential tenancy act. The case was brought to the attention of the tenancy branch’s compliance and enforcement unit following reporting by Chek News this past winter.

The tenant, Sharon Kowalchuk, was provided with two weeks’ notice to vacate the property in early February due to unpaid rent, though the tenancy branch report cited uncontested evidence that “she attempted to pay rent to the respondent for the month of February and … he refused to accept it.”

On March 1, the tenant was verbally told by a third party to be out by the next day.

“The tenant stated further that her electrical power was cut off that evening and she was forced to spend the night with no heat or power, and she was unable to fill her oxygen tank because of the lack of power,” noted the report from the tenancy branch.

The report indicated that the respondent claimed the duplex is “a rooming house rather than a tenancy in accordance with the act” and he personally accesses the upstairs rooming house area; however; the tenancy branch’s decision found that the respondent meets the definition of a landlord under the act.

The tenancy branch, in coming to its decision, took into account a letter signed by the landlord that suggested the tenant was not following a number of house rules.

“The tenants have every right to complain to the provincial residential tenancy branch through normal channels, but chose instead to sensationalize their story with the help of the media and the landlord is now being unfairly scapegoated,” the letter noted.

The landlord was fined $6,000 for contraventions to the act regarding ending a tenancy, $2,700 for deliberately terminating an essential service to the rental unit, $3,900 for preventing or restricting access to the rental unit, and $5,000 for interfering with the tenant’s right to be free from unreasonable disturbance.

Kowalchuk died Sept. 22 in Nanaimo hospital, according to a GoFundMe page that was set up to help keep her housed over her final months.

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About the Author: Nanaimo Bulletin News Staff

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