A pair of South Surrey families are searching for a place to live after a dispute with the Parklander Motor and Trailer Court came to a head Tuesday morning.
Residents of two Parklander sites came home Tuesday to a tow-truck operator preparing to remove their home from the 16311 8 Ave. property.
Both homes ultimately left the property, however, others are staying put while they await a Residential Tenancy Branch ruling or a decision from B.C.’s highest court.
“I came back from having breakfast and there they were hooking up to the truck,” said Merlin Kober, who has been a permanent resident at the site for several years. He told Peace Arch News that he paid the contractor $250 to unhook his property on the condition that he would remove it by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“They were taking the truck and the trailer,” he added.
Several Surrey RCMP officers were on site during the eviction.
Cpl. Elenore Sturko said officers were there to keep the peace for a civil matter, and “the information I have is that there is an eviction taking place.”
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing media relations officer Lindsay Byers told PAN that the ministry cannot discuss cases that may be before the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB).
“In general, police may be involved in an eviction if a court-approved bailiff has asked them to attend to keep the peace. A landlord needs to follow specific steps, including serving an Order of Possession and applying to the BC Supreme Court, before a bailiff will assist them in evicting a tenant,” Byers told PAN by email. “We trust that all parties are acting within the law.”
However, several residents allege the eviction was illegal. Long-term resident James Whittaker told PAN neither the bailiff, police or property owner showed the tenants an order of possession or any type of documents before attempting to tow mobile homes off the property.
Whittaker said a locksmith “broke into” one resident’s fifth-wheel unit while he was at work, to prepare it to be towed away.
“They didn’t have any paperwork, I know that for sure… All they had was (the owner) saying ‘they’re trespassing, this is a campsite, and they’re trespassing, I told them to leave,’” Whittaker said.
A woman who identified herself as the property owner, but did not provide her name, told a PAN reporter to leave the property Tuesday and threatened to involve police. She had no comment on what was taking place. Another woman, who Kober identified as “the boss” of Parklander, also told PAN she had no comment.
According to information on the City of Surrey’s website, the property is subject to a development application to allow the construction of 40 townhouse units within a hazard lands/sensitive eco-system development permit area.
“But nothing has passed yet, as far as I’m aware,” Kober said. “They got turned down for a big townhouse thing because of the stream and fish behind. I haven’t heard anything since. I don’t know what’s going on, exactly.”
Surrey planning manager Jean Lamontagne confirmed to PAN Wednesday that there is an active development application for the site, which is still under review and has yet to be ready for council’s consideration.
Kober said he’s received four eviction notices since last year, but that they were not provided on an official RTB form.
“I think we’re going to go down to the Peace Arch (RV Park) and see if there’s a spot there. Sometimes this time of the year, a lot of people head to the states and there might be a spot there.”
Not all Parklander residents were forced off of the property Tuesday.
Whittaker is allowed to stay because his right to live there is now before the B.C. Supreme Court.
The Parklander took Whittaker to the RTB earlier this year and argued that his mobile home does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA), which gives Whittaker more rights as a renter.
The RTB sided with Whittaker, and ruled June 11 that his home does fall within the MHPTA’s jurisdiction.
According to the Act, the landlord may end a tenancy agreement only if the landlord has all the necessary permits and approvals required by law.
The notice must be at least 12 months.
The Parklander filed a petition in the Supreme Court in August, asking the court to set aside the decision made by the RTB.
In its reasoning, the Parklander petition notes there are decals located on Whittaker’s mobile home that describe it as a recreational vehicle; Whittaker does not pay taxes on assessed value; the unit has a B.C. licence plate; and the unit is on a recreational-vehicle site.
In a response filed the following month, Whittaker disagrees with all orders of the Parklander’s petition.
“The unit was already in place on the Site, on blocks and skirted, when the respondent purchased it. The respondent has never moved the unit from the Site,” the response states, adding that Whittaker has lived there since 2009.
“At no time has the respondent used the Unit as a recreation vehicle.”
The response says that the RTB arbitrator considered all evidence at the hearing, even if not referenced in the decision.
Whittaker said that he, as well as other tenants who have RTB hearings scheduled, were protected from Tuesday’s eviction.
He said it’s not fair that some of his neighbours were evicted, while others were allowed to stay.
“This is just money, greed, throw us away,” Whittaker said Tuesday.
“Everybody that lives here, this is their home.”