Saanich couple forced to leave home of 15 years over bylaw issue

Saanich couple forced to leave home of 15 years over bylaw issue

WATCH: A Saanich couple and their pets are being evicted from their home of 15 years after the municipality decided to enforce a bylaw on accessory buildings. Tess van Straaten has the CHEK News exclusive.

Mike and Shelagh Scholtens love the rural home they rent on Wilkinson Road in Saanich.

“I always joked they’d have to drag our dead carcasses out of here because we love it so much,” Mike Scholtens said.

“I’ve had beautiful gardens here and it’s my stress release — gardening and being able to be with my animals and they’re taking that away,” Shelagh Scholtens added.

But now, after being good tenants for 15 years in what they thought was a legal suite, the Scholtens are being forced to leave.

“I was shocked and it’s very upsetting,” Mike Scholtens said, becoming emotional. “We’ve lived here for 15 years and there haven’t been any issues.”

Devon Properties, which rents out the duplex for the owners, was told by the District of Saanich that both the Scholtens and the upstairs tenants have to leave because the home is considered an accessory building on the sprawling, seven-acre property and can’t be used as a residence.

“They said that they tried their best to get Saanich to change their mind and they basically said no,” Mike said.

“I think it’s ridiculous — there are two suites that are going to be sitting empty because the Saanich bylaw says there’s only supposed to be one house,” Shelagh said. “It’s a crisis, the rental situation [in Greater Victoria], so it’s a waste and Saanich is making it worse.”

After more than two decades of not enforcing the bylaw at the property, Saanich says it had no choice once it received a complaint.

“A number of people have had to leave these accommodations because we’re trying to follow the law and what we need I think is a better housing policy,” Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said. “It’s a challenge for us because we’re currently undergoing a review of some of our policies of where extra housing should be, whether it’s a garden suite or an extra building on ALR land, but at the moment we need to follow the law.”

But the Scholtens believe the property should have been grandfathered and say given the rental crisis, one complaint shouldn’t have that much power.

“They turned a blind eye to it for the last 20 years but now, because of one complaint, they’re displacing two families,” Mike Scholtens said. “Because of one complaint?”

Since finding out in mid-April that they were being evicted, the Scholtens — who have a dog and three cats — have been frantically trying to find a place but they haven’t had any luck.

“The pets are like our kids and there’s just no one really willing to take all the animals we have,” Shelagh said. “Some will take dogs, some will take cats but it’s very limited and there’s nothing out there for us.”

The Scholtens have to be out by June 30. With no other options, they’re packing their belongings into a shipping container and say they’re hoping to purchase a place in Sooke.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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