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Costly Mistake

IT’S THE LAW – By Tyler B. Dennis

What would you do if you were the judge? Judges decide the facts based on evidence put before them, and then apply the law. Here is a fact pattern. How would you decide who was at fault? Fact patterns similar to this one are often presented in court and assessed by judges. Test your judgment!

Little Red Riding Hood vs. The Big Bad Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood (“Little Red”) and her Grandma owned a house in rural Cloverdale that they were renting out to the Big Bad Wolf (“Wolf”). During a property inspection by Grandma and Little Red they found that unknown to them, Wolf had three sub-tenants, the Three Little Pigs, living with him.

Little Red and Grandma notified Wolf of his eviction, had the Three Little Pigs removed, and the locks changed. Wolf brought an application to the Residential Tenancy Branch (“RTB”) to challenge the eviction. Little Red and Grandma filed a counter-claim with the RTB seeking damages and an order of possession against Wolf.

A RTB hearing was held before RTB Arbitrator Hunter (the “Hunter”). Wolf claimed to have never been served with the counter-claim or its materials and therefore was unable to prepare. The Hunter ruled service had been properly given by registered mail based solely on a tracking number provided by Little Red and Grandma. After the hearing took place, the Hunter ruled that a settlement had been reached to have Wolf move out and to have his possessions returned. Wolf applied for a RTB review of the Hunter’s decision, on the grounds that it was unfair because he had never been served with any of the counter-claim materials and had been unable to prepare for the hearing. The RTB review of the Hunter’s decision denied Wolf’s request for a new hearing because he had not submitted it in time. Wolf then brought a petition before the Supreme Court of British Columbia (“BCSC”) to review the entire RTB process.

If You Were the Judge, How Would You Decide?

The Judge ruled that by relying only on the tracking number as evidence of service of the counter-claim materials on Wolf, the Hunter had failed to provide Wolf with the opportunity to review the material and to prepare an appropriate response to the counter-claim. The voluntary settlement the Hunter stated had been reached was the result of unfair circumstances for Wolf and the Judge ruled an adjournment of the hearing should have been given to Wolf, so he had time to prepare an informed response.

Further, the Judge found the RTB review decision had been improperly reached because it relied upon the basis that the Hunter’s decision had been reached correctly and in a fair manner. The Judge ruled that the Hunters decision and the RTB review decision had been reached unfairly. The Judge overturned both decisions and Wolf was granted a new RTB hearing, much to the frustration of Little Red and Grandma.

Tyler B. Dennis is a lawyer who practices in Cloverdale with the firm MacMillan Tucker & Mackay at 5690 – 176A Street, Cloverdale (Surrey), B.C. At MacMillan Tucker & Mackay, lawyers are available to answer questions about wills and estates, ICBC claims, personal injury, professional negligence, family matters and other issues. If you require legal assistance, please call  (604) 574-7431 to book an appointment.

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