Hoarder-tenant dies with pet cat inside rental, leaves B.C. landlord to deal with odour issues

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      Being a landlord isn’t all about waiting to collect the rent.

      It’s a lot of hard work, as many may attest.

      Sometimes, problems aren’t just about broken plumbing.

      It could be worse, and B.C. landlord Ying Dong Xu has a story to tell.

      Xu and her co-owner rented out a condo unit to a tenant in 2013.

      The strata development has a bylaw that says an owner or tenant must neither produce “undue smell” nor allow the lot to “become unsanitary or a source of odor”.

      In late 2018, the rental unit became a source of bad odour, and the strata noticed.

      As Lynn Scrivener, a member of the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, related in reasons for judgment in a dispute that arose later, the strata conducted an inspection.

      “Photos and video footage taken during the inspection show mold on the walls and ceilings, generally unsanitary conditions, and a very large amount of personal belongings,” Scrivener wrote.

      The building manager Mr. O “reported the results of the inspection to the strata council, and expressed concern about the tenant’s health, as well as pest and safety issues associated with what he thought was a ‘hoarding’ situation”.

      Xu and her co-owner were notified.

      The owners issued a notice to end the tenancy.

      Eventually, a “social services organization became involved with assisting the tenant”.

      “A worker at this organization coordinated with the owners about remediation efforts, and the owners agreed to rescind the notice to end the tenancy,” Scrivener related.

      The unit was fixed, and a second inspection with Xu present was made in March 2019.

      “Photos and video footage taken during the second inspection show a large amount of furniture and personal belongings,” according to Scrivener.

      But “strata council members did comment that there had been efforts to clean since the first inspection”.

      Then something else happened.

      “The tenant and her cat died inside the strata lot in mid-April of 2019,” Scrivener wrote.

      Following the death of the tenant, the owners “removed the contents of the refrigerator and freezer and did some cleaning while waiting for the estate to be dealt with”.

      “The representatives of the tenant’s estate asked to continue the tenancy for several months to allow them to empty out and clean the strata lot,” Scrivener related.

      Moreover, text messages show that the intention was to terminante the tenancy at the end of July 2020, but this extended to the end of October.

      “Despite continuing the tenancy, the representatives of the tenant’s estate did not clean or remove property from the strata lot,” Scrivener noted.

      Meanwhile, Xu and co-owner “worked to comply with the requirements in the Residential Tenancy Act about abandoned property”.

      When the tenancy terminated at the end of October 2019, the owners “started to remove items from the strata lot and garage”.

      They also arranged for the power in the strata lot to be reconnected, as power was previously cut off due to fire hazard concerns.

      Throughout this time and even after the end of the tenancy, the strata had been imposing bylaw infraction fines.

      The fines totaled $3,000, and the strata wanted Xu to pay.

      To collect, the strata filed a claim against Xu with the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, and the dispute got assigned with Scrivener.

      In the tribunal member’s reasons for decision, Scrivener noted that it was the late tenant who violated the strata’s bylaws.

      “Whether or not Ms. Xu should have known about the problems with her tenant, there is no suggestion in the evidence or submissions that Ms. Xu rather than the tenant created the conditions inside the strata lot or garage area,” Scrivener wrote.

      Scrivener noted that Xu denies having created the problem.

      “She says that the strata’s conduct was abusive and motivated by the fact that someone associated with the strata wants to buy the strata lot at a discounted price,” Scrivener wrote.

      Since the strata could not fine Xu for the violations made by the tenant, Scrivener dismissed the strata’s claim for $3,000.