Sharon Kowalchuk’s landlord had no interest in answering questions when CHEK News knocked at his door Thursday — but investigators with the Residential Tenancy Branch will be knocking on his door next.
The Nanaimo woman’s story of being handed a two-week warning to vacate her rented suite while dying from a terminal illness — saying her landlord even went as far as turning off her heat and power — has resonated with many who watched her emotional response.
“My landlord just came up and told me I had to move in two weeks. No paperwork. Nothing,” she told CHEK News Thursday, in tears.
Nanaimo’s Sharon Kowalchuk is hugged by her husband, Gerry, after the palliative woman says she was evicted from her rental suite due to ambulances coming and going. March 2, 2023.
“When I saw the story I was thinking to myself, how awful the situation must be for this individual,” B.C’s Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon told CHEK News Friday.
Kahlon says he immediately asked the BC Tenancy Act Compliance and Enforcement Unit to investigate.
“I asked to get the information about exactly what happened and to ensure that this poor tenant gets their rights protected,” he said.
It’s an extreme case of an illegal eviction because of Kowalchuk’s illness, but those who advocate for tenants say it happens more than people might think.
“They often happen to vulnerable tenants, people who face barriers accessing justice, barriers to enforcing their own rights and there are some landlords who take advantage of that for sure,” said Rob Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre in Vancouver.
He says this is an extreme case.
“No one physically dragged the tenant out but you turn off the heat, you turn off the hot water, you turn off the electricity that the tenant needs to fill their oxygen tank to be able to breathe, sorry it’s just not right,” he added.
Patterson says when police are called to evictions they’re often not dealt with because it’s a civil matter, adding there’s a gap in the system in getting tenants the justice they deserve
“Even more so with this case a tenant who is on palliative care , who may not be around to see the conclusion of a legal proceeding that results in any compensation,” Patterson said.
Kahlon says this particular landlord could be facing stiff fines.
“There are fines that can be levied up to $5,000 a day to landlords that break rules, but again the investigation is ongoing and I don’t want to jump ahead of what might be coming,” he said.
Kahlon added the majority of landlords in B.C. are good people but to those who aren’t, he has some words of advice: “Respect the rules and your tenants.”
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