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B.C. families battle retirement home over security deposits: ‘It’s just not right’ – BC

Family members of former residents in a B.C. retirement home are calling for better renter protections for seniors amid a legal dispute over security deposits.

Greg Stewart is one of several people who allege a Langford independent living facility has wrongly withheld their family members’ damage deposits when they moved out.

“All of the stories are exactly the same. They collect the security deposit. They refuse to pay any of it back – and in many cases they are billing people for flooring, cabinets, and supposed damage – and none of it has been proven,” he said.

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When Stewart’s mother moved out of Cherish at Central Park in 2022, he says the company claimed the carpets needed replacing and went ahead with the work. It then billed her and only returned a portion of the deposit.

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While he maintains there was minimal wear on the carpets, he said that shouldn’t even matter — under the law, the landlord is required to prove their case if they want to keep the deposit.

Stewart refused to cash the cheque and took his case to the Residential Tenancy Branch, which arbitrates disputes between renters and landlords.

The process took nearly 18 months, and he said he ultimately won a default judgment — amounting to double his mother’s deposit — when the company failed to attend.

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But he alleges Cherish refused to pay, leading him to take the matter to small claims court, where he again won — but has yet to see a cheque.

“They claim that they don’t have to pay back the security deposits because they are not governed by the Residential Tenancy Branch, they claim they are a care facility,” he said.

“But they are not licensed under the Ministry of Health Community Care and Assisted Living Act. By default, they are governed by the Residential Tenancy Branch.”

In a statement, cherish did not address its reasons for forgoing the RTB process.

“We always return damage deposits within 15 days,” it said.

“In the case where there has been damage, we have to retain some or all of the damage deposit to repair the damage, as agreed in our contract.”

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Andrew Jackson, who alleges his mother also had a portion of her deposit withheld, said he felt like seniors living in the home were being bullied.

“You’ve got a population who is vulnerable, they don’t want to cause a fuss,” he said.

“It’s a combination of people taking advantage of not having much experience in the rental game and being at a very vulnerable time in their life. It’s sad.”

B.C’s seniors’ advocate raised the issue of tenants’ rights in a recent report, calling on the province to improve funding to make sure British Columbians in independent living facilities aren’t falling through the cracks.

The report noted that many seniors find the dispute resolution process onerous and intimidating and that it requires computer skills that may be beyond them. Seniors are also left to represent themselves, while their landlords may have legal counsel.

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“Many times when we get these complaints we’re seeing it’s not just one person in these communities that is impacted, it may be dozens, or maybe in some cases all of the tenants,” Seniors’ Advocate Dan Levitt told Global News.

The Residential Tenancy Branch told Global News that Cherish has been ordered to pay about $34,000 in claims related to security deposits since July 2023.

It said its compliance and enforcement unit was aware of the matter.

Stewart’s mother passed away in April, 2023, but he said he plans to keep up the fight which has already cost him a significant amount of time and money.

“It’s just not right,” he said.

“It’s the principle of the fact that somebody is telling people that laws don’t apply to them and just hoping they’ll go away, and I am not willing to do that.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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