The province’s Residential Tenancy Branch has opened an investigation into the impending eviction of senior residents from a privately operated Shuswap assisted-living facility.
Responding to the news that approximately 34 residents, primarily low-income seniors, of Salmon Arm’s McGuire Lake Congregate Living have been informed they must be out of the building before Oct. 1, B.C.’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told the Observer via email that the Residential Tenancy Branch’s Compliance and Enforcement Unit (CEU) is aware of the situation and is investigating.
The ministry explained it is the job of the CEU, launched earlier this year, to conduct investigations of repeated or serious non-compliance with tenancy laws or orders of the Residential Tenancy Branch, issue warnings to ensure compliance and, if necessary, administer monetary penalties.
On the morning of Friday, Sept. 13, live-in staff and residents at Salmon Arm’s McGuire Lake Congregate Living awoke to find a courtesy notice taped to several of the doors explaining the building they call home will be closed as of Oct. 1.
“Please note that this building will be closed as of Oct. 1. Utilities will be disconnected and the building will be sealed,” read the notice, posted by the owners of the building at 551 Trans-Canada Hwy.
“The tenant operating as McGuire Lake Congregate Living and Shuswap Grill Gourmet Burgary has been served a Notice of Termination effective July 29, 2019. The date for vacant possession has been extended until September 30 in exchange for an orderly exit.
“This notice is given as a courtesy to any occupants and/or sub-tenants renting from the tenant noted above as it has come to our attention that the tenant has likely not informed all occupants of the need to vacate.”
Later that morning, the building’s lessee and McGuire Lake Congregate Living operator Dan Shields met with the approximately 34 residents to explain the situation. He confirmed he had received notice from the building’s owners on July 29, stating the lease was being terminated immediately and asking him to contact the building owners’ lawyers. Shields said he also spoke with the Residential Tenancy Branch and was told the building couldn’t be closed as of Oct. 1 as stated in the notice.
“I have been on the phone to the Residential Tenancy Branch out of Burnaby and they told me to tell you guys this, he cannot do any of the stuff that’s on that letter…,” said Shields. “If he sold the building, he has to tell us he sold the building in which case he has to give us four months’ notice, or any major renovations to the building it’s four months’ notice. Otherwise, he could technically serve us with two months’ notice.”
The ministry also informed the Observer that as operator of McGuire Lake Congregate Living, Shields could pursue a dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Lorenz Eppinger, representing the building’s owners, numbered company 951624 Ontario Ltd., told the Observer that Shields has been in significant arrears on his rent since 2014 and, over the last couple of years, was “repeatedly informed that payment was required or the lease would be terminated.”
“(It came) to the building owner’s attention early last week that Mr. Shields had likely not informed commercial subtenants and clients at the congregate living facility that his lease has been terminated for non-payment and the need to vacate,” said Eppinger in an email to the Observer. “A call to Interior Health and one of the commercial subtenants confirmed our belief. Hence the “courtesy notice” was posted, which resulted in Mr. Shields finally acknowledging to his tenants and clients that he has been given notice.”
For its part, Interior Health says McGuire Lake Congregate Living is not an Interior Health facility and it does not oversee independent housing.
“As with any independent living situation, we would review the care needs for any individuals living at a location and receiving services to ensure that we continue to support the health-care needs regardless of where they are living,” commented Interior Health in an email to the Observer, adding, “This is an incredibly difficult situation – the BC Tenancy Board would be the right agency to discuss the legality of the eviction notice.”