With good advocates you can win big

On February 12th, 2009 the much awaited decisions from a Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution hearing arrived and delivered a monetary blow to one of the worst landlords in the DTES.

Dispute Resolution Officer Mr. Howell awarded to the former tenants of 2131 Pandora St. monetary awards for their loss of property and aggravated damages. This victory is the largest monetary case in BC’s Residential Tenancy History.

In October 2007, 30+ families and individuals had less than an hour to grab whatever they could and leave their waterlogged apartment in East Van as water poured in from the roof.

“Tenants lost everything, all their property, their security and their home. This situation was totally avoidable, the landlords just did not care about the building and the necessary maintenance.” stated Anna Hunter, advocate for the tenants from the Downtown Eastside Residents Association.

The infamous Sahota family owns the building, as well as numerous other SRO hotels and apartments in the DTES. “These landlords are well known in this community for doing the least amount of work possible in their buildings. They harass and intimidate their tenants and if you complain you are evicted.” says Hunter.

Over the course of four days in the fall of 2008 Mr. Gurdyal and Pal Sahota attempted to defend their neglect of the building’s roof by claiming that one of the tenants had intentionally vandalized the roof. In the hearings they claimed they did everything they could to prevent this disaster.

However, the Dispute Resolution Officer found differently. In his 17 page decision he states “I find that the landlords are liable in damages to the tenants in negligence…..I so find because, as mentioned earlier, I have found that the respondents’ conduct transcended simple negligence and amounted to a reckless disregard for the welfare of the tenants and the duty imposed on the landlord to provide housing suitable for occupation”. Mr Howell also stated in his decision that the landlords used the ‘alleged vandal’ as a convenient scapegoat to their argument.

Tenants were each awarded an individual monetary amount based on what they lost during the roof collapse, as well as aggravated damages for the pain and suffering caused by the experience. Total amount for the 28 claims is about $170,000.  ~DERA Press Release 02/18/09 (edits~wp)