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Langford building problems highlight need for tenancy safeguards: advocate

When contracts are "frustrated" by landlords, they have no liability to a tenant to provide support or compensation, says TAPS.
A moving truck is seen outside Ridgeview Place in Langford, B.C., on April 27, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The case of a Langford apartment building that was abruptly emptied of tenants last week for the second time in four years highlights a need for better safeguards for renters, an advocacy group says. 

Centurion Properties Apartment Inc. ended tenancies with renters of the RidgeView Place last Monday after being informed by Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. that the engineer responsible for remediation work is under investigation. 

The company “frustrated” its rental contracts — a legal concept that allows landlords to immediately end a tenancy in the case of an unforeseeable event that makes it impossible for the contract to continue, said Emily Rogers, director of operations at Together Against Poverty Society. 

When contracts are frustrated, a landlord has no liability to a tenant to provide support or compensation, she said. 

Contracts are most commonly frustrated in the case of a fire that damages a building, Rogers said. Sometimes landlords end contracts for all units, but the damage appears concentrated to just a few units, she said. 

The advocacy group would like to see a safeguard in place that would require landlords to request approval from the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch before frustrating rental contracts. 

“Because the stakes are so high, allowing a landlord to frustrate a contract essentially overnight really does put people out on the streets in the blink of an eye and that impact is difficult to overstate,” Rogers said. “And the process needs to be commensurate to that impact.” 

There is currently an avenue for residents to dispute a frustrated contract, but it’s a challenging process when people are scrambling to find a place to live in an emergency, Rogers said. 

Hunter Boucher, vice-president operations for LandlordB.C., said it’s not common for landlords to frustrate a rental contract. Boucher said wait times for emergency orders by the Residential Tenancy Branch are over a month and waiting for approval when a unit is not safe to live in is not practical. 

“From that standpoint, the process does not really make sense to have that type of requirement,” he said. 

The Housing Ministry said in a statement that if a tenant does not vacate a unit after a tenancy is frustrated, the landlord cannot take possession of the unit unless the landlord has received an order of possession from the Residential Tenancy Branch. 

During a hearing to consider granting such an order, an arbitrator would consider whether the rental unit is uninhabitable. 

Last week, a tenant who had moved out said some occupants remain in the building. 

Centurion could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. 

Langford announces new help for tenants

Mayor Scott Goodmanson announced new supports Monday for tenants affected by the mass eviction of the 90-unit building through a fundraising partnership between the City of Langford and the West Shore Developers Association. The city will match any funds raised up to $75,000. 

“We believe this collaborative approach provides the appropriate balance of working with local partners, while ensuring taxpayers aren’t solely responsible for helping our neighbours in need,” Goodmanson said.

The Community Social Planning Council will distribute funds and will work with residents to assess their needs, considering household income and family composition to ensure money is distributed equitably. 

Executive director Diana Gibson said it’s uncertain when residents will be able to access donations, but the group is quick to distribute emergency funds, as it regularly works with residents facing eviction through its rent bank. Donations can be made online at

Centurion said Saturday it has hired a third-party structural engineering firm to understand how best to address and remediate concerns with the building. 

Centurion Properties did not provide a name or details on what company it is hiring or what fixes would be made, but said in a statement that it is working to develop a phased approach that will allow residents to briefly return to their units to remove all personal belongings. 

“Further information will continue to be promptly shared as it becomes available,” the company said. 

The former Danbrook One building has twice been evacuated in four years, first in December 2019 and most recently on April 24, when an estimated 130 residents were told to leave due to seismic and structural concerns in the 11-storey building. 

Centurion said it has increased resources for the affected residents, which includes “compassionate care assistance” totalling $250,000 that includes rent refunds and deposits. 

The company said it is distributing “unconditional” $2,500 payments to all residents, on top of refunded rents and deposits. 

It initially offered $1,000, and then upped it by $1,500. 

Centurion said as of Saturday more than half the additional cheques have been picked up. 

The company said it is offering residents support in finding units in similar residential properties and hotels, and is extending the availability of moving trucks, movers and moving supplies. 

On Thursday, the province offered tenants five days of support, including lodgings and food. 

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