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Richmond renter, landlord head to tenancy branch over rental dispute

After a house fire, a landlord asked for rent that went above what the province has set for rental increases.
A landlord and tenant are in a dispute over rent and renovations.

A Richmond renter claims his landlord tried raising his rent more than is legally allowed and now is threatening to evict him and his family. 

Jehad Abuarja, who lives on Trumond Avenue near Dixon elementary, was told by his landlord his rent would increase by $400, from $2,100 to $2,500 on March 1. This was after the rent was already increased by $100 on Jan. 1.

The provincial government has set 2022 rental increases at 1.5 per cent, which would have meant Abuarja’s $2,000 rent on Jan. 1 should have increased by $30. 

Last July, there was a fire in the kitchen of the rental unit, and Abuarja didn’t have tenant’s insurance.  

An agreement was made between the landlord's insurance company, Gore Mutual, and the renter, that Abuarja would pay $7,000 for the repairs. 

He was to pay $1,000 upfront and the rest in instalments over 17 months.  

Abuarja said he originally agreed to the $100 rent increase starting Jan. 1 “because I don’t want trouble.” 

But when he was told a couple of weeks later his rent would go up a further $400, he said that was beyond reasonable. He said he'd have agreed to pay $2,250 per month in rent. 

When he checked the provincial government rules on rental increases, he noticed the amount he was being asked to pay was well above the allowed 1.5 per cent. 

Abuarja then sent a registered letter to his landlord explaining how the proposed rent increase was illegal. 

After Abuarja refused the $400 increase, the landlord tried to evict him within a month, citing the fire as the cause. However, the fire took place six months earlier and he has already paid about $2,000 to the insurance company for the repairs.

The landlord Howard Wu claims the repairs are taking longer because the tenant isn't being helpful during the renovations.

Wu said the dispute isn’t about money, rather he wanted the family to cooperate more with the contractors who are trying to repair the house. 

Wu said suggesting the $400 increase was a “wild idea” that he thought would be a smoother way to end the rental contract. 

He claims, in his reasons to the tenancy branch on why he wants to evict the family, that they are “not helpful” when contractors try to do the repairs and renovations. 

Wu said he wanted to take advantage of the situation following the fire and do additional improvements to the house. 

“My intention, what we’re trying to do, is make the house much better than before the fire,” Wu said. 

But Abuarja claims the landlord was doing more repairs on the home than was caused by the fire. 

“Many things related to the fire, they didn’t fix it, while they fixed many things,” Abjuarja told the Richmond News. 

Furthermore, the landlord claims his insurance premiums are going up because of the fire. 

Abuarja pointed out his rental contract doesn’t say anything about a tenant needing to hold tenant insurance.  

The dispute has been taken to the BC Residential Tenancy Branch, which will hold a hearing on April 26.