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Victoria landlord to pay tenant $30K for noise, asbestos exposure after judge strikes down challenge

The apartment building at 435 Michigan St. in Victoria's James Bay neighbourhood. (Google Maps) The apartment building at 435 Michigan St. in Victoria's James Bay neighbourhood. (Google Maps)
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A Victoria landlord and property management company must pay more than $30,000 in damages and rental reduction to a tenant who complained of exposure to asbestos and excessive noise while their apartment building was renovated.

Owner IMH 415 & 435 Michigan Apartments Ltd., and Devon Properties, which manages the Charter House Apartments at 435 Michigan St. in Victoria, petitioned the British Columbia Supreme Court to review a 2022 decision by the Residential Tenancy Branch that found in favour of the tenant. 

The arbitrator in the case awarded the resident $30,721.75, which included approximately $11,500 for loss of balcony use and the landlord's failure to maintain the building in reasonable condition during construction.

The company challenged two other portions of the award: $10,000 for aggravated damages due to ongoing health concerns about asbestos exposure, and $9,242.62 in rental abatement for loss of enjoyment during jackhammering and other construction noise.

The landlord argued the aggravated damages and rent reduction were unreasonable, saying no medical evidence was provided to support the tenant's concerns about asbestos exposure.

It also said there was no clarity about how the total amount of the award was arrived at.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Simon Coval dismissed the challenge Thursday, ruling the arbitrator's award of reduced rent was warranted given the scope and duration of the disturbance during the years-long construction project.

"The extent, length and timing of construction noise should have been manifestly obvious to the building manager throughout the renovation," Coval wrote in his decision.

The judge also found the aggravated damages were warranted based on the arbitrator's conclusion "that the landlord’s mismanagement of the project exposed the tenants to hazardous levels of asbestos and silica fibres, and caused [the tenant] serious, ongoing distress and anguish."

The renovations at 435 Michigan St. were ongoing from December 2015 to November 2019. WorkSafeBC issued multiple stop work orders in 2016 due to deficiencies in asbestos handling and abatement, according to the judge's decision.

The concerns about asbestos eventually prompted the property managers to evacuate the building in January 2017, moving all tenants to a nearby hotel for several weeks while tests were completed. 

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