Kitimat trailer park residents at odds with landlord

The tenants of Vista Village have formed a tenant's association in response to concerns with the park owner.

Residents of the Vista Village trailer park on Columbia Avenue are notably fed up with the owner and landlord of the property who they say has been blocking sales and denying tenant rights.

The situation has become so dire that residents have formed a tenants association and have worked continuously with the Kitimat Housing Resource Workers for support.

A press release issued last week through the Kitimat Housing Resource Project say the landlord, Lee Ann Wolfin, has been using illegitimate reasons to deny the sale of homes on the property by the residents.

Three properties at Vista Village are currently listed for sale through MLS, but some attempts by some home owners to sell have been fruitless.

A letter from Vista Village resident Brenda Gordon, which she has allowed to be reported on, notes that there have been two offers on her home, both rejected by the owner for various reasons.

“It seems as though she is not happy to have us live in the trailer park, and at the same time she prevents every attempt to sell,” she writes.

Gordon said she’s lost out on three separate attempts at sale on her trailer.

As of press time our calls to Wolfin had not been returned.

At the core of the issue is what is and is not allowed by a landlord of a trailer park in relation to sales.

The Kitimat Housing Resource Project in their release claim that the landlord has altered rules for sale at a rapid pace — twice in the past six months — and some of the means to deny sales “is intended to financially exasperate the home owner.”

Among those rules at the Vista Village include a need to consult the landlord before listing a home for sale, and for a tenant to provide a full inspection report of the manufactured home.

Kitimat Housing Resource Worker Paul LaGace says that through their own investigations those rules are against the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and a landlord would not have jurisdiction on that matter.

“There’s literally 100 that are vacant,” said LaGace, who joined a number of Vista Village Trailer Park residents while speaking with media.

He said if you look next door, the neighbouring trailer court is entirely full,

“It seems, by numbers, that those [Vista Village] could be completely full if they wanted to be,” he added.

LaGace and fellow Housing Resource Worker Anne Moyls have worked often on files relating to Vista Village.

LaGace said that easily a third of his time is spent on related files, and he said he could even make it a full time job at the current pace of arbitrations and complaints.

The residents who volunteered to speak were Jennifer Bresky who lives in the park with fiancee Ron Gutknecht; Diane Keith; Mike Anthony, who will chair the new tenants association at the park, and Marie Turner.

All have lived in the park for various lengths of time, from just over a year, to some over a decade.

“I have a buyer for my trailer but she’s blocking the sale,” said Keith. “They’ve already extended this [offer] once. So now I’m waiting for the tenancy branch to come up with a decision. But again, if I lose my buyer, I find another buyer? She’ll do exactly the same thing.”

Since we spoke with Keith the buyer had backed out of the sale.

A letter provided to the Sentinel by one of the park residents shows the owner listing a tenant’s responsibilities for a sale, including providing a detailed inspection report. But the law doesn’t allow landlords to ask for that.

“These are real estate disclosures being used, and the landlord does not have jurisdication in these area,” read the press release from the Housing Resource Project.

Skeena MLA Robin Austin has been made aware of the troubles at Vista Village and has committed his office to assisting homeowners there.

“These evictions, as far as I am concerned, are illegal,” he said. “We are going to help them fill out the forms and paperwork and go through the tenant residency board, because they’re going to have to fight this.”

He said this sort of thing is happening all over B.C.

“This is happening all over British Columbia where there’s an increase in rent, and of course we’ve seen that dramatically in Kitimat,” he said.

“I think the owner is simply trying to take advantage by turfing out people for no good reason, and illegally, to try to jack up the rent.”