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Long-ignored bylaw causing headaches for RV Park renters

Starting June 1, renters will be required to relocate to a new plot every 30 days

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A long-ignored bylaw at the Whistler RV Park is causing major headaches for long-term renters, forcing some to reconsider their future in the park.

Earlier this month, residents received a notice from park management stating that, beginning June 1, a bylaw requiring renters to relocate to a new plot every 30 days would begin being enforced. According to several renters Pique spoke with, they were told if they do not agree to the conditions, they would be told to vacate the park.

"Can you imagine how crazy it would be on the 30th day of every month (to have) 40-plus people packing up their RVs and all switching sites?" wrote one resident in an email, adding that many of the full-time renters are working professionals, families and single parents "just trying to get by" in a tight housing market.

Another park resident of three years explained how unrealistic it would be to expect long-term renters to uproot their trailers and RVs on a monthly basis.

"When you have a big trailer and you finally get it set up—you skirt it, you put decking down, some of them have their little shelters—you're there for a while. You can't move every 30 days," the resident said. "It's to the point that some of the people have said they've had enough and they're leaving."

Pique has agreed not to identify residents of the Whistler RV Park as some fear eviction if they speak out.

Until 2007, when the municipality extended its borders, the park fell under the jurisdiction of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD). SLRD zoning continued to apply until two years ago, when the RMOW adopted its own zoning for the property. One of the park's accepted uses, grandfathered in from the SLRD days, states that "a recreational vehicle space shall not be occupied by the same recreational vehicle for more than 30 consecutive days," an effort to maintain the park as "a true campsite," explained Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

It's unclear exactly what prompted park management to begin enforcing the bylaw. Park general manager Gord Calder would not elaborate when asked to explain why a bylaw that has been on the books for years was only being enforced now, saying that, "We're getting in compliance. That's all."

Pique reviewed several text messages that were sent to a park resident from the same phone number Calder was reached at for an interview. In the messages, the individual apologizes, saying the RMOW has "cracked down hard on us" and that the park would incur fines if trailers weren't relocated every month, beginning in June.

Wilhelm-Morden clarified that the directive did not come from municipal hall.

"The Bylaw Services department is complaint-driven and they've confirmed to me that there have been no complaints," she said.

"I'm quite satisfied with Bylaw acting on complaints, and if there's no complaints, then we don't have an issue."

The notice to residents also came just days after a May 3 police incident brought Whistler RCMP to the park.

The park's June 1 deadline also coincides with new legislation coming into effect next month that will increase the level of compensation manufactured-home park tenants receive from the landlord in the event of so-called "renoviction."

But determining whether a mobile-park renter qualifies as a tenant can be complicated, explained Lorna Armstrong, with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.

"I've come across situations where long-term residents of RV parks have been found to be tenants. There isn't (a specific timeframe that establishes renters as tenants). It goes to the nature of the tenancy," she said, adding that an arbitrator would consider a variety of factors, including whether a prior conversation was had with the landlord about the length of stay, or if a renter "has been there for so long that they can no longer be seen as an occasional overnight or seasonal guest."

Armstrong also noted that, if the directive has not come from the municipality, long-term park residents could argue that because the RMOW never had any intention of enforcing it, they shouldn't have to comply—but that would be a difficult case to make, she conceded.

"The landlord could argue that they had to adhere to this bylaw," she added.

"It depends on what the (municipality) is prepared to do. The simplest solution for this, in terms of fairness in housing, is asking: 'If this is a bylaw that hasn't been used for years, then what the hell good was it,' and get rid of it."

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