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Landlord reimburses tenants for illegal rent increase collected at Nelson seniors home

‘It took perseverance and determination’
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L-R: Dede Shave, Dixie Champ and Mathilde Klassen, residents of Lake View Village in Nelson. Following Champ’s victory at a Residential Tenancy Branch hearing, the owner, Golden Life Management, has reimbursed residents for a portion of of a 2023 rent increase that was deemed illegal. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

When Dixie Champ won her case against her landlord at a Residential Tenancy Branch hearing in July, she was not sure whether the decision would just apply to her or extend to all her fellow tenants at Lake View Village.

They had all received a rent increase similar to Champ’s that the residential tenancy arbitrator decided was illegal because it exceeded the provincial government’s annual rent increase limit of two per cent.

But the landlord, Golden Life Management, has since confirmed in a letter from vice president Celeste Mullin to the tenants that the decision will apply to all Lake View residents. The company has reimbursed all residents the portion of the 2023 increase that the arbitrator ruled was illegal.

As a result, Champ received a reimbursement of $950.86 for the year, applied as a credit to her November 2023 rent.

At the hearing, Golden Life argued that its planned 4.5 per cent rent increase was appropriate because of the cost of additional services. These include such things as one meal per day, weekly cleaning, cable, shuttle bus service, and night-time supervision, all of which the landlord said should not be classified as rent and therefore not be limited by the two per cent cap.

Champ argued that her signed tenancy agreement includes those services in the rent. She said they can not be opted out of by the landlord or the tenant, and they must be included in the two per cent increase limit.

The arbitrator agreed with Champ and declared the increase illegal.

Champ, along with fellow tenants Dede Shave and Mathilde Clausen, spearheaded the movement to protest the increase.

“We stuck to it and we accomplished it, and we are satisfied,” Shave told the Nelson Star. “It took perseverance and determination.”

She says the tenants have not yet received a rent increase notice for 2024, which would be subject the province’s new cap of 3.5 per cent.

Mullin’s letter also states that the company is revising the tenancy agreements, but Champ says residents have not yet seen any new agreement.

One of the issues for the landlord is the distinction between independent living — the category of tenant to which Champ and Shave belong and is governed by the Residential Tenancy Act — and assisted living, which is not. The building has 60 independent living units and 25 assisted living units.

In an email to the Nelson Star in October, Mullin said the company’s goal is “the integration of the Community Care and Assisted Living Act with the Residential Tenancy Act” within its tenancy agreements.

“We have begun work on new lease agreements and will seek input from (provincial tenancy compliance officials) particularly around the complexity of dealing with an aging population,” Mullin wrote.

“We are committed to sorting out all issues around the 2022 rent increases and to move all residents to a clear, compliant lease agreement, which we anticipate will provide everyone peace of mind.”

READ MORE:

Residents dispute rent increase at seniors housing facility in Nelson

Seniors housing rent increase dispute resolved in Nelson tenant’s favour

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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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