A Kelowna property manager is calling for changes to how B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) handles dispute resolutions.
Kevin Cheale is with REMAX/Realty Solutions and has been a property manager in the Okanagan for the past 22 years. He contacted Capital News after reading an article about a single mother in West Kelowna who has been fighting to get a damage deposit back from a former landlord for the past two years.
A dispute, among various other issues, is something he sees all too often.
“They’re (RTB) definitely doing what they are supposed to, be a resource for landlords and tenants,” said Cheale. “I’ve always had difficulties with the RTB on dispute resolutions, defending landlords and owners.”
However, Cheale said over the last three to five years he has seen a shift from landlords calling for help to more tenants calling for assistance. Cheale has been involved in 250 to 300 dispute resolutions and added it’s clear to him the RTB makes things difficult.
“They delay these cases for so long that they’re hoping people lose interest or, you know, is all this hassle really worth it?”
Cheale added it has reached a point where he warns tenants about trying to resolve a dispute through the RTB.
“My first suggestion is to say forget about it, you’re fighting a losing battle,” he said. “It’s going to take six months. They (the landlord) could possibly counter file against you. Would you rather just walk away? It is extremely disheartening.”
Cheale recounted a dispute resolution hearing in 2018 when a tenant was trying to have a damage deposit returned from a landlord, and was chided for asking questions.
“Some arbitrators do not like you asking them questions, they think you’re challenging their authority,” he said. “The arbitrator was very upset.”
Cheale said the exchange was followed up a week later via an email from the RTB director threatening him with fines if he was ever verbally abusive with an arbitrator again.
“All I did was was ask questions,” he said. “Here’s the government of B.C. telling me that I’m being verbally abusive to one of their arbitrators. I had no defense.”
Cheale is currently helping a tenant who is being sued for damages resulting from a leak in a house owned by a landlord. Cheale said the tenant reported the problem immediately, but the landlord took months to repair it.
“She (the landlord) sent him a restoration company. They got rid of all the hazardous materials but left it, not renovated, just left it bare.”
Cheale added it was a couple of months later that the tenant received an eviction notice that was incorrectly served. The tenant is being sued for $40,000.
Regarding what he would like to see changed at the RTB, Cheale said the list is long.
“The RTB needs to meet with property managers, landlords, people like me who have been in this industry who have seen a lot of different scenarios and they need to listen,” he said.
“They haven’t been forced to evict a family who can’t come up with rent. They just don’t know what it’s like.”
Black Press Media has reached out to RTB for comment but did not receive a reply by publication.