The Court held that Section 49 of the Residential Tenancy Act, S.B.C. 2002, c. 78 could not be read so as to give landlords the discretion to terminate tenancies on the sole basis that they would be financially advantaged in having vacant possession. Where an Arbitrator makes a finding of fact that the renovation sought by the landlord did not require vacant possession, the rational and reasonable decision is that vacancy notices should not be granted in favour of the landlord.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Arbitration Board – Landlord and tenant – Residential tenancy agreements – Vacancy notices – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Statutory interpretation

Allman v. Amacon Property Management Services Inc., [2007] B.C.J. No. 433, British Columbia Court of Appeal, March 6, 2007, Levine, Thackray and Lowry JJ.A.

The landlord owned four separate residential apartment complexes that the landlord wished to renovate. To do so, the landlord posted vacancy notices, including an outline of the renovations to be conducted in each of the Appellant’s suites. The proposed renovations, once completed, would significantly increase the rental value of each of the suites.

The tenants brought an application before an Arbitrator under the Residential Tenancy Act. The Arbitrator found that it was possible to renovate the suites with the tenants remaining in possession; however, it would be more timely and cost-effective to do so with the suites vacant. The Arbitrator dismissed the tenants’ application. The tenants appealed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia which found that the vacancy notices remained in force and effect only to the extent that they formed a basis for further exercise of authority of the Arbitrator to determine their validity. However, save to this extent, the Court stayed the Notices.

The Court of Appeal found that the Arbitrator’s findings of fact were patently unreasonable and clearly irrational. The majority of the Court of Appeal set aside the vacancy notices. The majority found that in order for vacancy notices to be lawful, they must be based upon renovations done in a manner that “requires” vacant possession and not merely for the economic advantage or convenience of the landlord. In a dissenting judgment, Lowry J.A. would have upheld the Arbitrator’s decision as reasonable and would not have set it aside.

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