The court dismissed the petitioner’s application for failure to establish that the dispute resolution officer’s (“the DRO”) decisions should be quashed. The court found that the DRO set out the findings of facts and principal evidence in its decisions and that the decisions were not patently unreasonable. Accordingly, the respondents were entitled to general damages, damages for loss of property and aggravated damages.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Residential Tenancy office – Landlord and tenant – Residential tenancy agreements – Vacation notices – Damages – Aggravated damages – Judicial review – Evidence – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Patent unreasonableness

Sahota v. British Columbia (Residential Tenancy Act, Dispute Resolution Officer), [2010] B.C.J. No. 996, 2010 BCSC 750, British Columbia Supreme Court, May 26, 2010, L.B. Gerow J.

The petitioners are the landlords of an apartment building on Pandora Street (the “Pandora”). In October 2007, the City of Vancouver ordered the tenants of approximately 50 rental units to evacuate because the roof of the Pandora began to leak. After the evacuation, the petitioners refunded the respondents’ damage deposits and rent paid for October. The respondents applied to the Residential Tenancy Branch (the “RTB”) for monetary awards against the petitioners for the damages they suffered when they were forced to vacate the building.

The petitioners argued that there had only been minimal leaking which was successfully repaired and that it was a tenant of the Pandora that vandalized the roof and caused the flooding which necessitated the evacuation of the building. The DRO rejected the petitioners’ arguments and the petitioners applied to review the decision on the basis that there was new and relevant evidence. The petitioners claimed that they had a witness that observed the tenant perform acts of vandalism. The DRO rejected the evidence based on its inconsistencies and in conjunction with the other evidence before the DRO.

The Residential Tenancy Act (the “RTA”) contained a strong privative clause, but s. 58 of the Administrative Tribunals Act (ATA), which was incorporated in the RTA, provided that in such a situation the applicable standard of review was the patent unreasonableness standard. This meant, only if there was no evidence to support the findings, or the decision was openly, clearly and evidently unreasonable, could it be said that the DRO’s decision was patently unreasonable.

The issue before the DRO was whether or not the flood was caused by the vandalism of the alleged tenant or by the failure of the petitioners to maintain and repair the roof. The court found the DRO’s reasons addressed the major points in issue, such as what caused the flood and whether the tenants were entitled to monetary awards for damages they suffered as a result of the flood, and thus concluded that the DRO provided adequate reasons. The court further found that the DRO’s decision was reasonable, intelligible and set out the basis for the decision. The court found that it was clear that the petitioners did not replace the roof even after tenants had complained or after there had been significant leaking. Nor would the petitioners produce maintenance or inspections records to prove that they had repaired the leak. Regarding the DRO’s award of aggravated damages, the court found that to justify such an award, all that needs to be found is that the petitioners’ conduct was highhanded. The court found that there was evidence before the DRO in which he could conclude that the petitioners acted with a reckless disregard for the welfare of the tenants.

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