RENTERS OF VAN­COU­VER

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - > BY KATE WIL­SON

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.

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