(Victoria, BC) Former residents of Super-in-Tent City (SIC), a tent city formerly located on the Victoria law courts property, are celebrating a May 18, 2018, decision from Justice Sharma of the BC Supreme Court, affirming their rights as tenants in the social housing building at 844 Johnson Street which was set up to house them when the tent city was dismantled.
This precedent setting decision dismisses an appeal brought by the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), a non-profit supportive housing provider and operator of the property located at 844 Johnson Street, and affirms the findings of the Residential Tenancy Branch that tenants in the building are covered under the Residential Tenancy Act and should be afforded all the same rights as tenants who reside in market housing. The decision also clearly mandates that blanket guest restrictions, like those imposed on the tenants at 844 Johnson Street, are illegal and must be removed. The decision will have positive and lasting effects on the lives of thousands of tenants living in supportive housing in Victoria and across the province.
The decision provides a snapshot into the lives of many low income tenants who live in supportive housing under strict guest policies that deprive them of rights that some renters paying market rents take for granted. At paragraph 56 of the decision, Justice Sharma writes, “... the petitioner has not provided any justification of why tenants who are being given a social benefit of below market housing, in an effort to try and stabilize their living situation, ought to be given less legal rights than tenants paying market rates…”
Current and former residents are applauding the decision. “I am pleased that the court has recognized that tenants living in supportive housing have the right to visit their friends and family inside their own home,” said Doug Swait, Plaintiff and resident of 844 Johnson Street. “This decision will go a long way toward ensuring that individuals living in supportive housing across BC know that they have rights and that these rights can be enforced, even when their landlord is a non-profit service provider.”
Kevin Love, a staff lawyer at Community Legal Assistance Society, who represented the plaintiffs in the court proceedings, said “This case confirms that subsidized and supported housing providers have to follow the rules just like everyone else. Tenants do not give up all their rights just because they need support or help paying the rent.”
The Supreme Court decision confirms and strengthens an earlier finding by the Supreme Court that blanket guest policies restricting access to a building are illegal, and emphasizes that landlords will still be permitted to place reasonable restrictions on a tenant’s guests, but only on a case by case basis.
“This decision is about reaffirming respect for legal protections for all tenants,” said Douglas King, Executive Director, Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS), “this decision ensures that tenants are treated fairly as individuals, and rejects the one size fits all approach in many social housing buildings that punishes all tenants regardless of whether or not they have done anything wrong.”
Ana McBee, plaintiff and former resident of Super-InTent-City said, “This victory is for tenants everywhere in that it will enable us to assert, no more and no less, than what everyone else expects.”
Kevin Love, Staff Lawyer, Community Legal Assistance Society, Vancouver
Doug King, Executive Director, Together Against Poverty Society, Victoria
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