Landlord evicts tenant due to fear of COVID-19, faces complaint before B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

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      A landlord says there was no discrimination involved when he evicted a tenant from his house.

      Christopher Seyffert claimed that he was only concerned about not contracting COVID-19.

      Also, the tenant allegedly did not pay rent, and so his action to throw out Nicole Gehman was justified.

      According to Seyffert, he has the right to be free from infection.

      The landlord’s arguments were recalled by a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, where he is now facing a discrimination complaint by Gehman.

      Tribunal member Grace Chen also recounted the circumstances of the case in her October 6, 2020 reasons for decision to proceed with a trial.

      Gehman is a harm reduction worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, and Surrey.

      The landlord prepared two letters, telling the tenant to leave.

      On April 10, 2020, Gehman came home and saw Seyffert had broken the lock on her room door.

      The landlord was packing her possessions with two other people.

      The woman called the police, who came but did not stop Seyffert.

      “She gathered some possessions and left,” Chen recalled. “She was homeless for seven weeks before she found housing.”

      According to Chen, the complaint alleged that Seyffert “perceived” that Gehman either had COVID-19 or was “at increased risk of contracting the virus due to her work environment”.

      “Mr. Seyffert submits that even if there were proof of discrimination, his ‘human right to be free from infection (and arguably intentional exposure)’ would justify his action,” Chen noted.

      Seyffert also argued that Gehman is “not protected” by the B.C. Human Rights Code because of her “reckless disregard for his health”.

      According to Seyffert, Gehman “decided not to pay rent and not to discuss her health status with him”.

      However, Gehman countered that she paid rent.

      Seyffert submitted a written statement from his friend, saying he was “present at the home in March and April 2020 and heard Ms. Gehman coughing and sniffling”.

      Chen noted that it is not enough for Seyffert to “simply say he was concerned about his health”.

      “The analysis about whether Mr. Seyffert’s actions were justified requires information about any vulnerabilities he may have had, what he understood about Covid‐19 at the time, what genuine concerns he had about the situation, what information he sought from Ms. Gehman and what her responses were, and what options Mr. Seyffert considered before evicting her,” Chen wrote.

      Chen rejected the landlord’s application to dismiss the complaint without the benefit of a trial.