Q:We are tenants of an "executive" home for 1.5 years. We have a small dog, that was included in the contract, and we paid a pet deposit and security deposit on move-in. Our landlord has been very difficult throughout our tenancy - not fixing things when called, not coming to open the pool, etc. At the renewal of our lease at 1 year, he was "unhappy" with our lawn maintenance, and forced us to pay for a landscaper that he commissioned. We now moved out on Oct 31st, and participated in the move out inspection. He came to the inspection without a conditions of inspection report, instead showed up with a piece of cardboard and a pencil to jot things down. At the inspection, he made mention of little nicks etc that we said were normal wear and tear. The tiles had fallen off the backsplash, which we asked him to fix and he never did, telling us we had to do it ourselves and he was not happy with the finished product. The carpet in the master bedroom was stained by our dog, and we agreed to discuss this after he came to us with a price. Otherwise, the house was in great condition, and he even said that it looked like no one even lived there. We are very clean people, with no children. There was no conditions of inspection report filled out, and we left without signing anything. Subsequent tenants moved in, and the next day he calls to say the tenants are complaining the downstairs carpet smells like dog urine, and he wants us to fix this by replacing the entire downstairs carpet at our expense. This was not mentioned at the move out inspection, though he had ample time to identify issues since he was in and out of the house between during the last 2 weeks of our tenancy without our consent (we had moved, but still had possession). Now, 9 days after the inspection, he has sent me a threatening letter, telling me to replace the downstairs carpet. He has also sent me his version of an itemized list of damages to the house which is grossly overexaggerated and a misrepresentation of the condition of the property. He came up with these damages on his own, without us, and includes many things that we did not even discuss at the move out. His letter makes it look like we trashed his home, and he uses the word "filthy" many times. We did not sign this document, as it does not fulfill the requirements of a condition of inspection report (no place to agree or disagree, no place to sign). He says he is going to file for arbitration against us. We feel bullied, and that he is using scare tactics. What are our rights in this situation? Can this document be used a substitute for the conditions inspection report? After reading the tenancy act, it is not clear if the document must be filled out and signed at the time of the inspection or not. Can he ask for MORE money than the deposits (I imagine changing the carpet in an entire home is very costly)? Thank you for your help.
A:The Residential Tenancy Branch publishes a Fact Sheet on Condition and Inspection Reports (# 115). http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/Fact%20Sheets/RTB-115.pdf This Fact Sheet explains that there should be an inspection report completed at the start of the tenancy and again at the end. Comparing these reports helps overburdened Dispute Resolution Officers at the RTO figure out who did what to whom, and who should be responsible for what.
While the RTB hopes everyone will use its form for inspections, a different form can be used if it complies with the laws and rules, and which is easy to understand and read. In your case, the landlord’s ‘cardboard and a pencil’ report might be of some help to an adjudicator, but given that you obviously dispute what you expect the landlord will claim, this might come down to a ‘he says she says’ type of dispute, and these ones are always tough on the decision maker.
The landlord can only claim for actual damages and proven costs and expenses related to the tenancy. This means that the landlord can’t ask for things he hasn’t actually repaired and paid for. Adjudicators accept bills and receipts as proof. They don’t accept estimates for work not done. Given that there are new tenants in place at your old digs, and there is a dispute about the condition of the joint when you moved out, you probably will ask for the landlord to produce the inspection report he conducted with the new tenants following your end of tenancy. If this is different from the landlord’s ‘cardboard and pencil’ report for you and yours, it will likely raise a couple of legitimate questions on the dispute resolution officer’s part.
A dispute resolution officer will likely put significant weight on the new tenants’ condition report. In argument at an arbitration hearing, you might suggest that the new tenants’ report is independent and somewhat objective, and wasn’t filled out in contemplation of any claim for debt or damages, thus, it should carry some substantive weight when weighing the evidence.
My experience judging cases involving monetary claims is that when money is on the line, human nature compels individuals to frequently enhance their position and portray it in a fashion they think will work to their advantage. Some people embellish. A surprising number of people exaggerate. Some people even fabricate.
I have found that my hearing has slipped a notch or two over the years. I may not hear every single word that is said, but I do know the people in front of me are always talking about money. Same diff’ with the RTO decision makers.
It seems that you are headed for arbitration. My advice is that you get organized. Get prepared. Put together a package you think will be helpful in presentation at a hearing. Include photos you’ve taken during your tenancy that show different areas of the premises. Compose a brief that sets out what you want the dispute resolution officer to know. Use examples to illustrate your points. During the course of the hearing concentrate on what you want to establish, and be prepared to establish it through evidence rather than assertion and innuendo. During the hearing, don’t get angry with the decision maker because it is hard for a decision maker to find for someone they may have taken a disliking to. Ignore insults directed your way by the landlord. Be calm. Be civil. Make your point(s). Remember, the onus of proof lies on he who alleges. No proof, no case. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
And thanks for the $20. Your $20 is greatly appreciated by the children fortunate enough to be served by the African PreSchools charity. You will be startled to find out how far $20 actually goes in a remote South African village.