This week on Legally Speaking with Michael Mulligan:
Only a tiny percentage of contracts ever end up in court. This is because contracts are intended to be agreements both parties wish to enter.
If, for example, you agree to purchase a home from someone, both you and the seller presumably want to buy and sell the home for an agreed price. Nobody is required to force the home sale to complete as agreed.
For understandable political reasons, contracts to rent homes are often no longer the result of both parties wanting to continue with the agreement.
As renters outnumber landlords, it’s been politically popular to legislate terms of home rental agreements to do such things as limit or prevent rent increases, prevent rental agreements from having an end date or restrict the circumstances in which a landlord can end a rental agreement.
The result of this, combined with high inflation and rising interest rates, is that many renters are not paying the market value of their homes.
This has resulted in a strong financial incentive for landlords to evict tenants, sell properties, or otherwise get out of agreements to which they do not want to be a party.
The BC Government has responded by attempting to impose penalties to force landlords to continue subsidizing rents for existing tenants.
One of the few circumstances in which a landlord can end a contract to rent a home is if they, or a close family member, wish to move into it themselves.
To prevent this exception from being misused, the BC Government has required landlords who end a contract to rent a home for this reason and who do not move into the home “within a reasonable period of time”, to pay the former tenant 12 months of rent.
The substantial amount of money a former tenant might get has resulted in many applications. Between January 1, 2021, and April 30, 2023, there were 2,200 applications.
In the case discussed on the show, the landlord couldn’t move into their home for four months because he received a stop work order from Saanich for some renovations he was doing before moving in. He was required to provide architectural drawings and asbestos testing before completing the renovations.
At an arbitration, an adjudicator awarded the former tenant $22,001.04. This was overturned on appeal to the BC Supreme Court and, eventually, the BC Court of Appeal.
Also, on the show, the BCCA upholds a decision by the BC Review Board to keep a woman who was found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder in a secure hospital. The woman suffered from treatment-resistant Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, complicated by substance abuse.
She had attempted to abduct a 4-year-old child from a bus believing the child was her own. That was not the first time she had done something similar.
She has no insight into her mental disorder and continues to believe that she is the mother of “angel babies” that she needs to get back.
Finally, on the show, the BC Court of Appeal found that a 4-year minimum sentence for manslaughter with a firearm was not “grossly disproportionate” to the appropriate sentence in the case being considered and, as a result, not unconstitutional.
Because the case did not consider other reasonably hypothetical circumstances where someone could be subject to the mandatory minimum sentence, the provisions may need to be revised in a future case.