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.”