A Halifax tenant who’s been fighting renoviction for months has been served a new notice of eviction after her apartment was condemned due to mould.
It’s the latest development in the fight between Stacey Gomez and her landlord, Marcus Ranjbar. Last month, Gomez won a residential tenancies hearing and was allowed to stay in her apartment on Church Street. Ranjbar is appealing that decision to small claims court.
But last week, the municipality told Gomez she would have to leave due to high levels of mould in the air inside the apartment.
Gomez was worried on Monday she’d have nowhere to go. She packed some of her belongings and moved into a hotel provided by the provincial government on Tuesday.
And then Ranjbar served her with a new notice to quit.
“Imagine going away temporarily. Let’s say you went on vacation, and then your landlord tells you that your tenancy is up, permanently. That’s how I feel,” Gomez said during a news conference at her lawyer’s office on Thursday.
Ranjbar served Gomez with a Form F Notice to Quit. According to the province’s website, that form is for landlords evicting tenants “for reasons other than failure to pay rent and not complying with statutory conditions.” One of those reasons is if the “premises are no longer livable because of fire, flood or other situation.”
The form must be delivered to the tenant “7 days before the date you want the tenant to move out for any reason other than failure to pay rent and breach of statutory conditions.”
But Ranjbar is insisting that Gomez is already evicted. He’s requiring her to clear her belongings out of the apartment by Friday.
Lawyer says landlord can’t ‘unilaterally’ evict
Gomez’s lawyer, Mitch Broughton, said if the tenant doesn’t agree, then the landlord needs to file a Form J to apply to a residential tenancies officer to evict their tenant.
“You cannot have a landlord unilaterally evicting tenants. That would create an incredibly chaotic situation that the legislature has purposely avoided by putting this legislation into effect,” Broughton said.
“And we’re of the position that the landlord’s not properly following this legislation and is in breach of the statutory conditions to keep the unit fit for human habitation.”
Broughton said the potential eviction should be adjudicated.
“We are of the position that the tenancy continues until there’s an order of termination from the residential tenancies board or the small claims court,” Broughton said.
Landlord argues lease is terminated
Ranjbar said he believes the municipality’s order to vacate ends Gomez’s tenancy.
“The order to vacate is basically meaning that you have to vacate the property with your belongings and your lease is terminated on that particular day in which the order or vacate was issued,” Ranjbar said in an interview.
Ranjbar said he and his lawyer believe Gomez’s belongings are “abandoned property” and should’ve been removed on Tuesday. He said they spoke to residential tenancies about the case.
Gomez said she’s not going to remove her belongings.
“If they do proceed, then we’re going to explore what the legal options are in that situation,” Gomez said. “If they go through my things without my consent, that does feel like a violation and that shouldn’t be happening.”
Gomez said she’d move her belongings from the living room to another part of the apartment to allow remediation work to happen, if she was asked.
“There hasn’t been that dialogue to see, how can we do what needs to be done for both parties to move forward in the best way? It’s just been unilateral decision by the landlord to move forward in this way,” Gomez said.
Calls for provincial action
Gomez is calling on Colton LeBlanc, the provincial minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, to enforce the act.
Lisa Lachance, MLA for Halifax Citadel—Sable Island, said their office has heard from several people being renovicted. Most of those tenants don’t enter into the residential tenancies process.
“The act and the enforcement of the act is not working,” Lachance said.
“I think what we really want to see in the in the act and in the enforcement is respect for what people are going through with their homes and the places they live. And to see that, in fact, the system can work to protect people in these situations.”
On Thursday, Nicola Seguin reported for CBC that LeBlanc’s department is “looking for a consultant to plan a compliance and enforcement division within the Residential Tenancies Program.” The tender, which isn’t available to the public, closes Nov. 1.