Pamylla Brown sat in the living room of the North Delta apartment where she’s lived for the last 11 years.
Her son, Rikk, was on the couch opposite her, as was fellow tenant Gary Flathers. The family’s two dogs were on the porch, sometimes coming to the sliding door to press their noses against the glass and whimper. A large white and grey cat wound its way across the floor and hopped onto the ottoman.
Brown was upset, her voice tense with emotion, as she explained the story behind a series of difficulties with her landlord at Shannon Gardens (11831 80th Ave.) over maintenance in her suite and her neighbours’, and what she believes is unfair conduct over the number of animals in her home.
“I got two disabled people. He’s mentally disabled,” she explained, looking over at Flathers. “My son’s got emotional, social anxiety.”
“They’re just putting a lot of pressure on this family,” she continued. “This is my home for 11 years. I’ve got two guys who don’t take good to change. They don’t want to move, because they’re not good with change. It’s not good.”
Over the month of April, Brown said, she had been the subject of what she called bullying from the management company at her complex. By April 26, when Brown sat down with the North Delta Reporter, she had been told she was in violation of her tenancy agreement. The next day, she was issued an eviction notice.
Olena Byelan, manager at Shannon Gardens, declined to comment on Brown’s eviction or other issues at the apartment complex. Cressey Development Group, the parent company of Cascadia Apartment Rentals Ltd. which manages Shannon Gardens, also declined comment.
Brown said her problems started around Thanksgiving of last year, when management came in to replace her broken stove.
While there, the representative found out that Flathers was sleeping in the storage room, which has no windows. They told Brown that Flathers would have to move, and they would come back in 24 hours to check.
The next day the representative returned. By then Flathers had moved his sleeping quarters, but now management was not happy with the cleanliness of the stove and refrigerator, Brown claimed. She said they told her she had another 24 hours to clean those appliances. On the next visit, she said they told her she had to patch the walls, and they would be back in December to inspect.
“They would never put it down in writing, they would tell us in steps,” Brown said. “So we were always left off guard.”
The Residential Tenancy Act states that landlords can inspect a rental unit monthly, so long as the landlord gives the tenant written notice at least 24 hours before entering. The written notice must include a reasonable purpose for entering. The Residential Tenancy Board said follow-up inspections like the ones Brown experienced are over and above the monthly limit, however, they are allowed if both parties agree to them.
Brown said she never knew the names of the people who came in to inspect her place. Shannon Gardens management declined to comment on the inspections leading up to Brown’s eviction.
The next time a representative of management came to inspect her place, Brown said, it was April 16 of this year, when two men looked over the inside of the apartment. When they left, Brown claimed a woman who was waiting outside approached them about having too many animals.
Brown’s son Rikk filmed a portion of the encounter. The camera is pointed at the floor, allegedly at the woman’s request.
“I’ve got no patience for this,” the woman said in the video. “I don’t want to listen to listen to you justify why you should have eight pets, and why —”
“But even the last time you came here you knew what we had,” Brown interrupted.
“There’s no buts,” she replied. “I did not know you had eight animals. You’re hiding them all over the place.”
|One of Brown’s dogs. (Grace Kennedy photo)|
According to Delta’s “keeping of animals” and zoning bylaws, residents are able to keep a maximum of six cats and a maximum of two dogs over four months old. At the time, Brown had four dogs, including one puppy who was waiting to be picked up by an Alberta couple, and four cats.
“When she approached us, she knew we had the two dogs and four cats,” Brown claimed. “They’ve known all along. But at that time, I’m admitting, we were over.”
Shortly after the visit, Brown took her pug Pumba to the Delta Animal Shelter, as well as one of the family’s cats. The Alberta couple also picked up the puppy, bringing Brown’s animals within the city’s limits.
“We have complied by cutting back on our animals,” she said a few days after they had taken Pumba to the shelter. “If they still try to enforce this … they’re going to lose.”
Neither the property manager at Shannon Gardens nor a representative from Cressey Development Group would comment on Brown’s allegations.
On April 26, staff came back to Brown’s apartment with a portion of her tenancy agreement. (Brown said she had lost her copy of the agreement, and had asked management for a copy of it last November. She claims they told her they couldn’t find it.)
The two-page section of the agreement said that Brown was only able to keep one pet. The agreement allowed for one Yorkie-cross dog, although the option for cat was also circled.
“When I circled my Paolo, my dog when I moved here, I said to the girl, ‘Well, I have two cats,’” Brown explained. “She said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s for [the] deposit.’”
Before Brown had seen that portion of the tenancy agreement, she didn’t believe it restricted the number of pets she could have. Many residents in the building have more than one animal, and two neighbour’s tenancy agreements provided to the Reporter show no restrictions on the number of dogs or cats a tenant can have. (Both those agreements were signed between six and seven years after Brown’s.)
“Rules go for everyone,” Brown said. “They can’t come in and say that person can have a barbecue but you can’t. That person can have patio furniture but you can’t.
“They can’t do that, it’s discrimination.”
The day after Brown received her section of the tenancy agreement, staff came back with two sheets of paper: a letter that says Brown had failed to reduce her number of animals to an acceptable level, and her notice of eviction.
The eviction notice identifies the reasons for eviction as: seriously jeopardizing the health or safety or lawful right of another occupant or landlord; putting the landlord’s property at significant risk; and breaching a material term of the tenancy agreement that was not corrected within a reasonable time after written notice to do so.
According to the Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline, a material term is a portion of the agreement that so important that the most trivial breach can end the tenancy. The guideline also says a landlord can know a tenant is keeping pets when an agreement says they can’t, but later ask the tenant to get rid of them. However, a delay in asking the tenants comply with the agreement could indicate that that part of the agreement is not a material term.
Brown believes that material term in her eviction was the pet agreement, but isn’t sure about the first two. She said management has yet to explain the reasons behind the eviction notice.
“They never explained,” she said. “They just more or less threw it at us and left.”
Shannon Gardens management declined to comment on Brown’s eviction.
Brown has filed a dispute with the tenancy board about her eviction, which is now on hold until after the hearing on July 4, when a residential tenancy branch arbitrator will make a decision on whether Brown will be able to stay.
“It seems like they’re picking on the disabled ones. The ones that can’t really fight back,” Brown said about management. “And it makes me mad.”
“All we want to do is live in peace,” she continued. “I’ve never had any complaints against us or anything. Now all of a sudden after 11 years we’re these horrible people.
“We’ve never done anything different. So I don’t know how it turned into this.”
Next week, we talk to some of the other residents at Shannon Gardens, and hear how they feel their complex has changed from a place of comfort to what some called a “slum.”