A landlord who renovicted tenants from a run-down Bedford hotel has lost his case in small claims court.
Bluenose Inn and Suites owner John Ghosn will now have to pay Brandy McGuire more than $13,000, as a residential tenancies officer first ordered him to do in August 2022.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in April 2022, McGuire was paying $1,400 for a room with a kitchenette for herself and four children. In March, tenants received a letter notifying them they had to leave by May 1 because the owners decided it was time to “retire” the building.
The province banned renovictions during the COVID-19 state of emergency, which ended in March. Then it enacted amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. Those require landlords to give tenants three months notice and compensation upon a renoviction.
Ghosn told the Examiner he wasn’t evicting anyone; the building was simply past its lifespan. McGuire challenged the landlord through the residential tenancies process with the help of Dalhousie Legal Aid, and won.
Residential tenancies officer Jason Warham ruled Ghosn had illegally renovicted McGuire, based on the new provincial legislation. Warham ordered Ghosn to pay McGuire four months rent, 12 months of the difference between her old rent and new rent, and for the loss of internet at the old inn. The total: $13,662.15.
Landlord appealed, adjudicator ruled for tenant
Ghosn appealed the residential tenancies decision to small claims court, and on Jan. 10, adjudicator Eric Slone heard the case.
Slone issued a written decision in McGuire’s favour on Jan. 16. Ghosn’s lawyer argued, per Slone, that the new provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act don’t apply here. That’s because there was no renovation planned and there were no immediate plans to demolish the building.
“So does it make any difference that this landlord may choose to leave the building empty for a period of time before demolishing it? I am of the view that this does not change anything,” Slone wrote.
“If a delay between eviction and demolition is enough to prevent the regime from applying, how much of a delay would count? And who would decide that?”
Slone ruled that if a landlord evicts a tenant to demolish a structure, then the new section applies, “regardless of how long it might take for the demolition to occur.”
“The term ‘retiring’ the building is a euphemism. A retired building is one that is slated for either renovation or demolition,” Slone wrote.
‘Landmark win for tenants’
Slone found Warham’s ruling on relief for McGuire to be fair, and awarded the same amount.
In a news release on Tuesday, Dalhousie Legal Aid celebrated the decision.
“This significant compensation in a case where a landlord failed to comply with the requirements of the Act regarding renovictions is a landmark win for tenants,” Katie Brousseau, community legal worker at Dalhousie Legal Aid said in the release.
“Owners and developers of large properties in Halifax, like the owners of the Bluenose Inn and Suites, have a responsibility to follow the law and when they don’t, they should understand that there are legislated penalties.”