RENTERS OF VANCOUVER
Renters of Vancouver takes an intimate look at how the city’s residents are dealing with the housing crisis. Tenants choose to remain nameless when sharing their stories.
“Istarted renting in the Metro Vancouver area after I graduated high school and enrolled at SFU. I was told that the further west and closer to downtown you get, the crazier things are, the smaller the apartments are, and the more risky the landlords are. Despite that, I had a tough experience when I was a tenant in a two-bedroom apartment in the eastern suburbs.
“I lived on the third floor of a short-rise with my brother, and it was really fun. It cost me $850 for 850 square feet. It was pet-friendly. The carpets were in good condition. There was a little balcony that sagged a bit, and things weren’t in perfect repair, but we were getting a great deal so we didn’t think anything of it.
“Everything was fine until the tenants above moved out. As they were taking their things off their deck, one of their feet went through the floor, smashing through a bunch of rotten wood. That showered our balcony and all our possessions with gross rot, and the maggots living in the wood came raining down. It was horrible.
“We realized that we had to tell the landlady about it. I was nervous because we’d never had to contact her about repairs or anything before, and I’d heard lots of stories in the past about how getting in touch to fix something makes the relationship sour. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
“The landlady had always been very efficient. She was a bit iffy on the English, but until this point she seemed friendly enough. When I asked her to fix the problem, she told me that she wasn’t the owner, and that she’d have to ask them about repairs. I don’t know whether she ever did talk to them, because apparently no information ever came back to her.
“I decided to find out who the owners were. She wouldn’t give me any contact information for them, and when I checked my lease, it was just her name on there. Things went back and forth for a while, and nothing was done. It was still very maggoty. Eventually, I went to the Residential Tenancy Branch, and I asked for an order to repair.
“Before the hearing started, the branch sent some people to assess the situation at my apartment. They boarded everything up, and they put a big support beam on my deck that I had to live with. The tenancy branch ruled that I should have $100 off my rent for the inconvenience I’d experienced, which was backdated for about three or four months.
“That pissed off the owners, so they went after me. I got an eviction notice for smoking, even though I don’t smoke—and we didn’t even live in a nonsmoking building. I wasn’t actually in the day that she was accusing me, and I had proof of that. I went to talk to the landlady, and explain that I was a good tenant who had lived there for two-and-ahalf years, and that I was sad that our relationship had seemed to have deteriorated because I was just looking to get some repairs. She maintained that I should be evicted.
“To fight it, I had to go to the Residential Tenancy Branch again. I wanted to talk to the owner of the building, but he was still nowhere to be found. I had to log an information request with the City of Vancouver to find out his name. Finally I got an address and number for him, but it was a struggle because he was hiding behind a corporation.
“During this time, because the balcony wasn’t fully fixed, there was a rusty nail sticking through a plank. I stepped on it by accident, and it went right through my foot. It was really painful, and I had to go and get a tetanus shot. That didn’t help the situation.
“We then ended up deciding at the second tenancy branch meeting that it would be beneficial and mutually agreeable for us to end the tenancy, because our relationship seemed to have deteriorated beyond repair. I didn’t want to live there anymore because I didn’t want to deal with a landlady who was hostile toward me.
“Then, by total chance, my mechanic friend happened to be doing work on the car of the owner of the building. He overheard the owner in the shop talking about how he was just waiting for the building to crumble to dust so he could bulldoze over it and build something new, and double the rent for it. He literally wasn’t going to put a cent into the building, and he wouldn’t give anyone any compensation.
“After hearing this I dug into things a little more. I found that all of my friends who had lived there had all had trouble getting their damage deposits back. I sent the owner a letter directly saying that I was moving out, and gave him a forwarding address for my deposits. Needless to say, I never got the money.
“Once again I went back to the Residential Tenancy Branch. I knew all the laws, and I’d done all the reading. I knew I was in the right. I ended up getting $1,600 back for my damage deposit, because it was doubled after the owner didn’t send it within two weeks of me moving out. I also got my fob deposits back.
“If you’re prepared enough, the tenancy branch can work for you in some situations. It’s important to be proactive, take pictures, get everything in writing, and be persistent.”
This tenant says he was given an eviction notice for smoking even though he doesn’t smoke and he didn’t live in a nonsmoking building. Kate Wilson photo.