Community rallies around Okanagan couple who may lose their home

"We are blown away by the generosity of these people," said Arnot, noting that there have been a heartening flow of well-wishes, to boot.

A West Kelowna couple recently took their tenancy dispute to the community in hopes they would get the support needed to stay on their feet, and they’ve been blown away by the response.

In just a few days, Ross Arnot and Ed Schneider have seen nearly $7,000 raised of $50,000 needed to move their mobile home to a place where they’ll be able to live out their retirement years.

“We are blown away by the generosity of these people,” said Arnot, noting that there have been a heartening flow of well-wishes, to boot.

“We are getting letters and notes from friends we haven’t heard from in a long time and from people we don’t even know. “

Neighbours in the mobile home park have also been “unimaginably supportive,” he said, noting some have been helping fundraise for months.

“It’s heart warming to have good friends and neighbours through all this,” he said.

What’s caused Arnot and Schneider’s friends, supporters and family to circle their wagons started a year ago when they were on vacation.

“We got this letter, Jan. 16, 2014, from Princess Enterprise, saying that they wanted to take over our garage at the first of February,” he said, noting that management wanted to use it as a maintenance shed.

The couple was taken aback, given that they thought it was theirs. It had been included with the property when they purchased it all those years earlier.

Pulling articles from tenancy laws, Arnot and Schneider put up a fight in an attempt to keep their shed.

For awhile it seemed to work, then things got worse—they were served an eviction notice

Still not willing or able to give in, the couple brought the issue to a legal hearing preceded over by the WFN, which the land is a part of.

There they learned that the mobile home park’s management company did indeed have the right to annex anything that was attached to the ground.

“That’s been disheartening for a lot of people around here to learn that,” he said. “There are a lot of us who have garages or sheds that are attached to the ground and they can be taken away, like that.”

But the shed is just the tip of the dispute. They’d happily give it up now, but the eviction notice still stands.

Arnot and Schneider were considered model tenants of the property until the shed melee, but they’re still not being given an option to stay.

Princess Enterprises wants the land, and that’s put them in a tough position.

With all the add ons, their home is not going to be cheap to move, and then there’s the question of where it will go.

They can’t sell it, as they say the management company won’t enter any tenancy agreements with new buyers. Princess Enterprises didn’t return a call on this matter.

As for whether Princess Enterprises has made an offer, given their clear interest in the property, Arnot said there’s been one, but it was laughable.

The waterfront property that came fit with a dock and shed was once valued at $360,000, according to Arnot, and Princess Enterprise offered $1,200 a month for 12 months in recompense.

“It was a ludicrous offer,” he said

Now they’re left to explore worst case scenarios.

“Either can’t come up with the funds to move the house, or we can’t get it moved, and we’d have to leave everything here and move out,” Arnot said.

That would mean they’d lose out on a mortgage they’re still paying for.

“No matter what option we choose, it will cost a chunk of money,” he said. “We are pensioners and it’s financially hard already.”

Arnot and Schneider have concerns that the issue is WFN specific, noting there are deficiencies in the band’s legislation as it applies to tenants and their rights.

The band contends that’s far from the case.

In fact, what the couple is facing is what buyers of mobile homes anywhere deal with.

“This is a private matter between a landlord and a tenant.  Pursuant to WFN’s Residential Premises Law, WFN’s only role here is to ensure the laws are upheld and parties are provided equal opportunity to engage their own legal counsel throughout the arbitration process, and in this case, also a subsequent Arbitration Review,” said Chief Robert Louie in a statement.

“WFN has no ability to influence or overturn the decisions of these third-party arbitrators. In this case, the law has deemed the landlord to be within their legal rights to end this tenancy. While we sympathize with Schneider and Arnot, WFN must remain neutral in the matter.” Louie noted that the WFN encourages tenants to familiarize themselves with WFN residential law, tenancy and rights as well as to review tenancy agreements before signing.

“Tenants of mobile home parks, on or off reserve, do not own the land on which they reside and are subject to the agreements they sign,” he wrote.

Arnot and Schneider will still fight to keep their home. If that doesn’t come to pass, they’re hoping the community’s generosity will help find them on more steady ground.

To see their campaign go to https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/euJra/em/f3hUf8?utm_campaign=share-campaign&utm_medium=email&utm_source=01-2015

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