The Whistler Housing Authority is cracking down on delinquent homeowners.
After finding out that Spruce Grove homeowners were over-charging for a employee-restricted suite it has reached a $15,000 settlement for the infraction.
The owners, who have not been identified, breached the housing covenant registered on the title to their property.
Marla Zucht, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority, said in a Tuesday interview that the tenant was being charged $1,500 for a two-bedroom suite when the highest allowable rent was $1,100.
"One of the arguments that they thought enabled them (to charge more) was they were offering the tenant the use of the garage as well, and I believe some storage unit or crawl space," she said. "That hadn't been negotiated or discussed, so that was their part of their argument for why they felt they were justified in charging $400 more per month."
The WHA was made aware of the overcharging when the tenant contacted the authority to ask about the suite's rental restrictions, according to a news release. From there followed a "quick verification process" from the authority's files. Officials quickly realized that the tenant was being overcharged.
Like most employee-restricted suites in the community, the covenant on the title of this Spruce Grove property restricted monthly rent to $1.25 per square foot of the suite's area as well as annual increases adjusted for the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The covenants also make the homeowners acknowledge that employee-restricted suites belong to the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) resident-restricted housing inventory, which the community needs in order to attract employees to work in its businesses.
The $15,000 settlement, agreed upon by both parties, began in Small Claims Court. The money will cover legal costs, staff time and will partially reimburse the tenant for overcharged rent.
Asked why the tenant wasn't fully compensated for being overcharged, Zucht said it's because of the way housing covenants are written.
"There's no obligation for any settlement funds to go back to the tenant," she said. "There's no requirement there. We wanted to give some of the money back, but the reality is, it went on for about six months, so the remainder of the funds were used to cover legal fees, lawyers involved, and filing a notice of claim in small claims court."
The news release went on to say that the RMOW opted to purchase a property when its owners, living in Vernon, tried to sell it for more than the maximum allowable resale price.
The home, a resident-restricted property in the Barnfield neighbourhood, had a maximum allowable resale price of $426,000 and Zucht estimated that the owners were trying to sell it for $15,000 more than they were allowed to.
Property values for WHA housing is calculated through a formula set out in the housing agreement when someone purchases a house, she said.
Asked why a homeowner would believe they could sell a home for more than it's worth, she said: "I honestly can't answer what the motivation would have been, other than trying to get away with it.
"Every time a resident property transfers, it has to go through the WHA office and its' very quick to verify the maximum allowable price. As soon as we saw the offer, we said no, this is above what the maximum allowable price is."
Zucht went on to say that the emphasis of the Whistler Housing Authority is to provide affordable housing in a community that sees higher property values than can be afforded by many residents.
"That's why it's imperative that we continue to enforce these covenants," she said. "To ensure the community is getting the full benefit of the program."
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