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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.

“When I moved to Van­cou­ver in 2016, I was jump­ing be­tween Airbnbs and hos­tels. A friend hooked me up with a Face­book group called Van­cou­ver Col­lec­tive Houses Net­work. I liked the idea of liv­ing with lots of peo­ple, and I had an im­age in my head of mov­ing into a her­itage house that was re­ally cute and colour­ful, and it would be at the top of a hill so I could look over the moun­tains. Un­for­tu­nately, it didn’t turn out that way.

“I saw a post in the group ad­ver­tis­ing a room in a two-bed­room for $650. I emailed the lead ten­ant right away, and she replied ask­ing when I could come and look round.

“When I went to view the place, there were a few prob­lems. There was mould ev­ery­where, and the plug sock­ets were prac­ti­cally fall­ing out of the walls. On top of that, there was a gap­ing hole in my bed­room door, like some­one had just punched straight through it. But I had to weigh up the fact that it was so cheap and I would only have to share with one per­son. It seemed like too good of a deal to pass up, fi­nan­cially, so I de­cided to take the place.

“The first time I met the lead ten­ant, I thought she was cool. We were about the same age, and she said that she was a DJ and worked in film. I fig­ured she’d be easy­go­ing and that we’d get along. That was not the case.

“When I moved in, the red flags went up im­me­di­ately. Firstly, she said that she would have a friend stay­ing in the lounge for a bit. When I got there, it was a French-cana­dian guy who had rented out the lounge off Craigslist to live in. We ac­tu­ally got on re­ally well, and he acted as a buf­fer be­tween me and the lead ten­ant—so once he moved out two or three months later, our re­la­tion­ship got strained.

“The first thing she did was send me an email with a clean­ing list that I had to ad­here to—things that were com­mon­sense, like dry­ing the dishes af­ter I’d fin­ished wash­ing them. She had a pretty high stan­dard for clean­li­ness and said that I needed to sweep the flat ev­ery cou­ple of days. I de­cided just to go with the flow and en­joy the fact that the place would be clean.

“Then one day she came home with a dead bat in her hand. She walked in while I was sit­ting on the couch and was like, ‘Oh, I just wanted to ask you a ques­tion: do you know how to dry this bat?’ She said, ‘This might sound weird, but I re­ally like col­lect­ing dead things. I col­lected a dead bum­ble­bee and a drag­on­fly once, and I dried them.’

“That was true. In the lounge, there was a mas­sive mir­ror set up, which acted as her med­i­ta­tion cen­tre. She had a writ­ten list of her goals, and had lots of pho­to­graphs stuck on it. She had added the drag­on­fly and bum­ble­bee and said that she was hop­ing she could dry out the bat so she could put it on dis­play. I said that she should get it away from me—i didn’t want a bat de­com­pos­ing in the house. At that mo­ment, all its or­gans were leak­ing out.

“She said that she would dou­ble­bag it and just put it in the freezer. At first I found the sit­u­a­tion hi­lar­i­ous, and then I re­al­ized that it might ac­tu­ally be a health haz­ard.

“Then she started get­ting re­ally con­trol­ling. One evening, I had some friends over to do some meal prepa­ra­tion for a trip. She sent a mes­sage say­ing that she couldn’t sleep with all the cook­ing smells that were go­ing on. Then she put a ban on us­ing the kitchen af­ter 10:45 on Mon­day through Fri­day.

“At this point she was work­ing shifts, and she’d keep send­ing me any up­dates to her sched­ule. She ex­pected me to re­ply with my work­ing sched­ule, so we could make sure that we would be out of the house at dif­fer­ent times. She wanted the place to her­self.

“I let her know that it wasn’t fair to im­pose all th­ese rules on me, es­pe­cially when I wasn’t do­ing the same to her. We sat down and had a pow­wow. She had a re­ally pa­tron­iz­ing tone—she talked to me as if I was an em­ployee. She said, ‘I don’t want you to feel like I’m mi­cro­manag­ing you, but I just feel like you’re not hear­ing me. I just feel like that you need to un­der­stand my needs.’

“She then said that in­stead of my boyfriend com­ing over ev­ery week­end, he should come over ev­ery sec­ond week­end, be­cause Satur­day and Sun­day were her free time and she needed to ‘de­frazz’.

“I blew up. I said, ‘I live in this place. I pay rent to live here. I’m not a guest in your house. I don’t want to walk around on eggshells just in case I dis­turb your del­i­cate ears or your del­i­cate nos­trils.’ I said I was mov­ing out. She said she thought it was a good idea.

“I wanted to leave as soon as pos­si­ble, but she said that if I didn’t give her one month’s no­tice, she wouldn’t guar­an­tee that I’d get my de­posit back. She told me those were the rules in Canada. That’s not true for peo­ple who were sub­let­ting like I was, but she wasn’t budg­ing. She had this con­de­scend­ing at­ti­tude and this su­pe­rior sense of self-worth.

“I ran into one of the peo­ple who rented the floor above ours out­side. I asked him about my room­mate and how many peo­ple had lived there be­fore I moved in. He said that ev­ery­body who lived in the prop­erty thought she was rude and ma­nip­u­la­tive. Ev­ery two months, there would be some­one new who moved in the suite.

“Van­cou­ver is a tough city to find a place to live, and it’s even harder when you don’t have any rights as room­mate. The lead ten­ant has all the power.”

This Van­cou­ver ten­ant had some strange ex­pe­ri­ences when she sub­let a suite from a woman who col­lected corpses of an an­i­mal and in­sects.

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