B.C. Supreme Court rules against Atira’s visitor ID policy at Downtown Eastside SRO hotel

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      A Downtown Eastside tenant has won a new victory against his landlord’s policy of requiring visitors to produce government-issued identification.

      The fight has pitted London Hotel resident Jamie Stuart Richardson and Atira Property Management, a business owned by the influential nonprofit Atira Women’s Resource Society.

      According to details recounted in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling, Atira Property Management sought to justify the policy by arguing that it is dealing with a “unique demographic” of drug addicts and alcohol abusers.

      Atira also pointed out that it is providing “safe housing” in a “dangerous neighbourhood”.

      It also claimed that the policy was “enacted in conjunction with the Vancouver Police Department”.

      As well, Atira noted that the rule was supported by B.C. Housing, the provincial agency that funds public housing. (The London Hotel is one of the SRO hotels owned by the province.)

      Previously, the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) ruled twice in favour of Richardson, who sought an exemption from the ID rule imposed in the London Hotel last year.

      Richardson felt that the policy was unduly restrictive, preventing many of his guests from coming over because they didn’t have government-issued ID.

      An arbitrator with the RTB ruled that under the Residential Tenancy Act, a landlord cannot unreasonably restrict access by guests to a rental property.

      Atira sought a review, and a hearing was conducted by another RTB arbitrator.

      The second arbitrator noted that Atira argued that limiting tenants’ guests to individuals with a government-issued ID is a “reasonable requirement considering the location and composition of the neighbourhood”.

      The arbitrator wasn’t persuaded, stating that “this ‘unique demographic’ is entitled to and to receive all rights and privileges” afforded to all other tenants under the tenancy act.

      “I therefore find the landlord has submitted no evidence supporting that restricting this tenant’s guests to be reasonable,” the arbitrator ruled. “I also accept the evidence of the tenant that it would create a hardship for his guests to produce a government issued identification card each visit to further conclude that the restrictive access is unreasonable.”

      Atira filed a petition for a judicial review before the B.C. Supreme Court. It lost this round as well.

      In a decision dated May 7, Justice T. Mark McEwan sustained the arbitrator’s approach to the issue.

      According to McEwan, the arbitrator considered whether the tenant and his guests can be reasonably restricted.

      “The Arbitrator focussed on the fact that there was no evidence that restricting this tenant’s guests was reasonable,” the judge wrote.

      McEwan also noted: “There was no evidence that he or his guests were ever a problem. The evidence was all directed toward justifying a blanket policy based on general concerns and certain anecdotal examples of trouble in the neighbourhood.”

      The judge agreed with the arbitrator’s position that the protection afforded to a tenant’s right to welcome guests cannot be eroded by a landlord’s policy.

      McEwan wrote: “If the meaning of reasonable restrictions was intended to include general policies adopted by landlords, regardless of the individual situation or behaviour of the tenant, the statute could have said so. It does not, and I am of the view that the Arbitrator correctly assessed the intention of the statute to be to protect individual tenants and their guests from unreasonable interference by landlords.”

      Comments

      5 Comments

      Seriously?!?

      May 10, 2015 at 11:28am

      No mention of Atria's intimate ties to BC Housing by marriage? Atria is just another non-profit run by poverty profiteers being paid private sector salaries in opposition to their stated mission. Until the focus is on elevating those in need rather than maintaining their status as "victims" to keep the cash coming nothing will change.

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      Interesting

      May 12, 2015 at 5:28pm

      I wonder what this will mean for all of the other supported buildings that require that visitors have government-issued ID. It's not just Atira buildings - PLENTY (I would even go so far as to say the majority) of buildings have a sign up on the door saying that visitors must have ID. It's pretty standard.

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      Anonymous

      May 12, 2015 at 5:46pm

      Yes, the majority of low income buildings in Vancouver require government issued ID. I have been working as housing first support for years.
      As someone who is on the front line daily, I agree that it
      (gov. ID) is absolutely a barrier to those living in poverty who just want the dignity of visiting ther friend(s).
      At the exact same time when a guest comes in to a residence, and commits an assault, a break in, theft, property damage, utters threats, etc. Having the persons accurate information on file makes taking legal action possible. Or at very least allows the staff to have the correct information to 'barr' or 'ban' the person from the building.

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      Jeanette

      May 20, 2015 at 1:43am

      To the person who works as housing first support.:
      This is a different topic, but relevant to the affordable housing subject. I live in Vancouver. I am on disability. My rent is 1400 that I split with a roommate. After paying utilities on top of that I have $100 left to live on. I don't drink or smoke or do drugs, I don't fit in with the DTES residents, but all of these people managed to get assistance with housing. I have been on the list with BC Housing since 1989. I know people that have gotten places to live. The places in my neighborhood are filled up with people earning more than a hundred thousand a year and drive around in BMW's ..then have the nerve to complain that they are so poor that they have to live in subsidized housing when in reality I.am the poor one because more than 90 % of my money goes to rent.
      What is it that I have to do to get into subsidized housing?

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      unsafe

      May 20, 2015 at 9:43am

      I want the dignity of being acknowledged as an intelligent life form, who makes safe decisions who comes into my home at any time any where. I live in what has been toted as a safe building for women and children. This building is staffed 24hrs a day 7 days a week with the mandate to keep us safe. I have been robbed and assaulted. Women assault each other and staff say there is nothing they can do about this. If they have no control of the people in the building asking for visitors id does not prevent violence against myself or others. I cannot control the violence of who Atira decides is my neighbor but I can control who I want in my house. I"m a big girl now.

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