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Coquitlam landlord must pay tenants $36K after judge upholds rental board decision

Landlord disagreed that she was properly served with documents, but her case was dismissed by a Supreme Court judge based on evidence — including information from a private investigator.
Rental sign housing
Landlord and renter dealings sometimes end up in dispute, including in this Supreme Court case.

A couple who hired a private investigator to find their Coquitlam landlord will be able to keep their reward of $36,400.

That's the upshot of a Nov. 10 B.C. Supreme Court decision recently posted publicly online.

In her ruling, Madam Justice Catherine Murray upheld a decision by the Rental Tenancy Branch (RTB) to impose the five-figure award for termination of tenancy and costs.

The landlord, Michelle Dubeau, had sought a judicial review of the RTB decision, arguing the ruling was unfair and findings of fact were "patently unreasonable." 

Dubeau told the judge she disagreed with RTB arbitrator's decision to proceed with the hearing in her absence, on the grounds she wasn't served documents and notification of the hearing.

The landlord disputed that her address was 313 Blue Mountain St., which was used by the tenants to inform her about a hearing into whether she unfairly ended their tenancy.

Rented Olympic Village condo

According to facts laid out the case, the couple rented Dubeau's Olympic Village condo for three years before the landlord asked them to leave because she was going to move into the unit to be closer to her daughter.

Dubeau gave the couple, Barry Holmes and Joanie Anderson, two month's notice to vacate the property, requiring that they move out of the unit by Feb. 29, 2020.

However, the couple found a place to live sooner, planned to vacate the unit by the end of December 2019 and drove out to the Coquitlam address provided by the landlord to provide her with the documents.

When they found she wasn't home, they taped the notice to the door.

A few months later, the couple complained to the RTB that their damage deposit wasn't returned and that landlord ended the tenancy in "bad faith."

They sent documents about the RTB hearing to the landlord's Coquitlam address, and via registered mail; however, she never attended the Nov. 24, 2020, hearing via conference call.

Dubeau told the judge she was not served with notice of the hearing as it was sent to 313 Blue Mountain St., which was "her previous address."

She sought relief of the RTB order to pay the tenants more than $36,000, including costs.

Private investigator was hired

The couple, meanwhile, told the judge the petitioner was served, had full knowledge of the hearing and chose not to attend. 

In reviewing the evidence, Justice Murray said she found that documents served at the Coquitlam address were received.

And while Dubeau claimed she was "estranged from her father" who lived at the address, a private investigator provided evidence that "shows the petitioner at 313."

The only place where documents were not received, was at the unit the petitioner says she was living in, and the ruling noted other efforts to inform the landlord about the RTB hearing, including sending documents to the email she had earlier provided.

Documentary evidence, including Canada Post tracking, were also submitted to the judge, who said she was "satisfied that the landlord has been served with the required documents."

On dismissing the landlord's petition for relief, Justice Murray said that based on the evidence before the arbitrator "it was open to her to conclude that the petitioner had been served with required documents under s. 89 of the RTA."

"I am unable conclude that her decision was patently unreasonable."