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B.C. court rejects Christian elderly care facility's eviction of COVID-stricken man

A man who could not clean for himself while sick with COVID-19 and isolating was evicted from a Christian care facility.
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A Rental Tenancy Branch decision upholding a Christian elderly care facility's decision to evict a man was unreasonable, a judge says.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has tossed out an eviction of a man from a Christian elders care facility.

Brian Senft had been a tenant of the Society for Christian Care of the Elderly since February 2011.

He was living in a rental bachelor suite in a 15-storey building, where fixtures and cabinets are 50 years old, Justice Sandra Wilkinson said in her May 6 decision.

On May 4, 2021, the society served Senft with an eviction notice effective May 31, 2021. That date was crossed out and rewritten as June 30, 2021.

Reasons given were that he seriously jeopardized the health or safety or lawful right of another occupant or the landlord, put the landlord's property at significant risk and had not repaired damage to the rental unit or other residential property.

Wilkinson said Senft is in poor health and has difficulties with housekeeping. Court documents show he receives assistance from others, including neighbours and private cleaning services.

Those cleaning services stopped as the pandemic picked up steam.

In February 2021, Senft helped a friend with a diesel engine and soiled the bathroom with mechanic grime. He intended to clean up the grime but became ill with COVID-19 in March 2021.

“He isolated in his rental unit. He was sick for the months of March and much of April,” Wilkinson said. “During this time, he ordered in food and was unable to clean his rental unit.”

On April 13, 2021, a society employee inspected Senft’s unit. The rental unit was unclean and in need of repairs, Wilkinson said.

Senft recovered from COVID-19 and, at the end of April 2021, hired a cleaner. Before the cleaner could make a first visit, the society employee showed up to serve notice and found the unit in the same condition.

After receiving the eviction notice, Senft applied to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for an order cancelling the notice.

A branch arbitrator upheld the eviction.

“There was clearly evidence before the arbitrator to support a conclusion as to whether the extent of the waste and odour in the rental unit seriously jeopardized the health or safety of others or put the landlord’s property at risk,” Wilkinson said.

However, she noted, the arbitrator found that the evidence of the unit's cleanliness after the petitioner’s retention of cleaners was irrelevant.

Wilkinson disagreed, saying that fact is relevant to the eviction and whether it was necessary and justified.

Not considering that fact left the RTB’s upholding of the eviction unreasonable, Wilkinson said in remitting the case back to the RTB for redetermination.