Tenancy and Estate Litigation Case Review: Charbonneau Estate v. Charbonneau, 2021 BCCA 206
In today’s case, Benoit Armand Charbonneau owned a manufactured home park (the “Property”). Benoit’s brother, Frederic, had lived on the Property prior to, and at the time of Benoit’s death, in exchange for Frederic providing his work and services. Frederic did not pay any rent to live on the Property.
In November 2019, Benoit died and the Property was transferred to the Estate. The Estate advised Frederic that he was no longer able to live on the Property without paying rent. Frederic continued to not pay rent and the Estate proceeded to seek a writ of possession, damages for trespass and an Order banning Frederic from returning to the Property. In Response, Frederic claimed that he had an agreement with Benoit, and as a result, had a right to live at the property. He argued that the agreement with Benoit constituted a tenancy agreement. As a result, Frederic argued that the agreement could not be changed or added by the Estate unless it was in compliance with the relevant landlord/tenant laws. The Estate denied the existence of an agreement between Frederic and Benoit.
The matter was initially heard before a Chambers judge who found that, while there was some evidence to support the fact that there was an arrangement between Frederic and Benoit, Frederic was not a tenant and he was not licensed to live at the Property. The Chambers judge further found that Benoit’s will “did not provide that Frederic could continue to live [at the Property] for as long as he wished or as long as he lived after the deceased’s death.” She also found that the provisions of Benoit’s will did not support Frederic’s assertion that he had a continued right to live at the Property, as Benoit’s will gave someone else the right to buy the Property at it’s appraised value within a certain time period after Benoit’s death. The Chambers judge concluded that there was no triable issue with respect to whether a tenancy agreement existed. She granted summary judgment which resulted in a writ of possession against Frederic Charbonneau, damages to the Estate for trespass and an Order restricting Frederic was entering the Property.
Frederic appealed the decision, arguing that the Chambers judge erred in refusing to accept that there was a tenancy agreement without further analysis. The Court of Appeal agreed, stating that the Chambers judge appears to have relied on the fact that Frederic did not pay rent to Benoit to conclude that Frederic was not a tenant. Further, Court of Appeal found that the Chambers judge did not analyse whether a tenancy existed between Frederic and Benoit, despite accepting that the two did have an arrangement which allowed for Frederic to live at the Property. She also did not reference the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (the “MHPTA”), the statue which would govern the agreement between Frederic and Benoit, if one existed. The Court of Appeal noted that previous case law has established that a “tenancy agreement” includes agreements that are “written or oral, express or implied.” The Court of Appeal ultimately held that there was a genuine issue to be tried on whether or not a tenancy relationship existed between Frederic and Benoit and referred the matter about whether a tenancy agreement existed between Frederic and Benoit to the director under the MHPTA. If a tenancy agreement exists, the Court noted that the Estate must abide by the provisions of the MHPTA if it wishes to terminate the tenancy and evict Frederic.
If you have inherited a property through a will, and there is someone living at that property, it is important to determine what type of agreement existed between the individual living at the property and the deceased. The type of agreement that existed, or whether an agreement existed at all, will dictate how to move forward. If you find yourself in this situation, talk to a lawyer for a full assessment of your circumstances and a review of your best options.
Natasha Roth is an associate at Bradbury Sippel Law Corporation in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Natasha Roth specializes in estate litigation and other contentious litigation matters.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-824-2560.