It should have been a happy time for Germaine Valdez and her family.
As a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal notes, Valdez has just given birth to her and her husband Jesus’ second child.
But rather than focusing on her recovery and bonding with her new baby, tribunal member Devyn Cousineau recalled that Valdez had to deal with their landlord Meltem Bahcheli.
It was an experience that Valdez described as “trauma”.
Twelve days after Valdez gave birth, she and her family left the apartment following “persistent harassment and pressure” for them to vacate the rental home.
In her reasons for decision, Cousineau found that Bahcheli and her company 689352 BC Ltd. discriminated against Valdez in terms of her tenancy because of her sex and family status.
Cousineau also ordered Bahcheli and her company to compensate Valdez.
One amount is $1,923.56 for expenses incurred by Valdez as a result of having been forced to leave.
The other amount is $9,000 as compensation for injury Valdez suffered to her dignity, feelings, and self‐respect.
“I am satisfied that Ms. Bahcheli treated Mrs. Valdez adversely in the terms and conditions of her tenancy, and that Mrs. Valdez’s sex and family status were factors—if not the only factors—in that treatment,” Cousineau wrote.
According to Cousineau, the adverse treatment took two forms.
One is ending the tenancy of Valdez.
“Ms. Bahcheli’s first reaction to the birth was that, because they had a baby, the Valdezes would have to move,” Cousineau wrote.
Cousineau recalled that Bahcheli began “pushing the Valdezes out of their apartment”.
“Mrs. Valdez testified, and I accept, that but for Ms. Bahcheli’s conduct they would have stayed in the apartment for a longer time,” Cousineau related.
Valdez was “frank in acknowledging that the apartment was small for a family of four, but they were happy in it and able to save some money until moving into a bigger place”.
“Ms. Bahcheli made that untenable,” according to Cousineau.
Bahcheli accused the Valdezes of being “liars” when it was obvious that Valdez was pregnant when she and her husband rented the apartment.
On April 3, 2018, the Valdezes stopped sleeping at their apartment, nearly a month before their lease expired.
They also had to return to the home of Valdez’s parents. They later had to rent a new apartment, while still having to pay for their old one.
The second form of adverse treatment suffered by Valdez was harassment from Bahcheli.
According to Cousineau, Valdez was entitled to the “quiet enjoyment” of her home as provided under the B.C. Human Rights Code, but was deprived of it by Bahcheli.
“The birth triggered Ms. Bahcheli to begin what would become a torrent of accusations that the Valdezes had lied to her and misrepresented themselves,” Cousineau wrote.
The Valdezes, who were originally from the Philippines, had wanted to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
However, only a one bedroom unit was available when they entered into a tenancy agreement with the landlord in 2017.
“You are a liar and I’m sorry for you that your lies cost your family a home,” Bahcheli texted Valdez.
According to Cousineau, Bahcheli “refused to meet and deal with the Valdezes in a professional way, threatened to start legal action against them and charge them sums of money for wasting her time, and insisted on frequent, uninterrupted access to their apartment at her own convenience”.
Cousineau noted that the “severity of the harassment and Ms. Bahcheli’s insistence that Mrs. Valdez leave the apartment resulted in Mrs. Valdez losing her housing”.
“This is serious,” Cousineau stated.