“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I've never met anyone so hard to deal with as my landlord.
I’d been looking for a place for two months, so when I found an apartment where I could move in right away, I just took it. It’s a one-bedroom near Kingsgate Mall. It’s a nice area, but my building was awful.
When I first looked around it seemed pretty bad, but I felt that it could be livable if I fixed it up a bit. It was only when I moved in that I realized how horrible it was. When I entered the apartment, the smell was horrendous—like cat litter mixed with chemicals. The landlord said that it was just the cleaning products used, and that it’d go away. I was really pressured for time that day, and I didn’t have any alternatives, so I browsed the place quickly and signed off on the inspection form.
Everything that could go bad in an apartment was bad. In the building itself, the front door was half hanging off, and held on by tape. The lock was so busted that you sometimes couldn’t get in, or it permanently stayed unlocked. There was mould in my shower. There were mice and cockroaches in the kitchen. There was dirt and grease all over the walls. I couldn’t get all the dirt out of the apartment without a cleaning company, and when I told him I needed professional help, he came round and started painting everything. Not cleaning—painting. He painted over all the muck on the walls, and started painting the stains on the fridge.
After eight months, I got my first leak. I notified the landlord that water was coming into my bathroom, and when he came over, he patched it up with some really flimsy material. He didn’t look for the problem, and I was worried that without addressing the source it would start leaking again. He said it was fine because he couldn't see any water at that time.
Sure enough, a few months later it started dripping heavily—literally litres a day. I told him it was an emergency, but the landlord still wouldn’t come round to look at it. When he finally arrived a week later, he came up with excuses. He said that it was just condensation from the cold pipe that was causing that much water to fall into my home. I told him that it couldn’t possibly be the case, but he decided he was just going to put a black sheath over the top to insulate it, and put a clamp on the pipe himself, even though it was clear he wasn’t a plumber.
Next, my sink started leaking. When the landlord came round, I told him about all the rest of the problems, like the mice and the cockroaches. I had a letter written that neatly detailed all the things that needed to be sorted out, and gave him a two week deadline to respond. He took my letter, and threw it in the garbage right in front of me.
I then decided to file against him at the Residential Tenancy Branch. Before I submitted my claim, I went around to the other units to see if they were aware of their rights too. I got twelve other tenants to file with me, because everyone was having the same problems. Every single person hated the landlord's guts. I thought my unit was bad, but some people’s homes were horrendous. Their mice problems were way worse, there were holes in the walls, and there was leaking from the rain outside. Their bathrooms were leaking too. They showed me pictures of the damage behind the walls, and it was just black and rotted. To repair the building, the landlord put some unsealed plastic up.
People told me stories from the past. Apparently nine people had died in that building in the last three years, and half from respiratory issues—which mould is said to exacerbate. Two years before I moved in, three guys living on the third floor decided to throw another man off their balcony. I found out later he landed on my porch, and died there. My neighbour’s car was in the parkade, and it got lit on fire. The garbage in the back is always overflowing, and there are needles in there too.
I won against the landlord at the tenancy branch. I listed so many things, and we only got through one—the leaks in my apartment. I didn’t say one word during the hearing. I just had so much evidence it spoke for itself. The landlord agreed to hire a plumber to make the repairs on my unit.
Many weeks later, he sent someone round who didn’t look at all like a plumber. He was in a raggedy shirt, and patchy jeans, and was definitely just a buddy of the landlord’s. He walked in and looked up with a flashlight for a second, and said everything was fine. When I asked to see his certification and his employment records as a plumber, he couldn’t show me anything. The landlord and the fake plumber talked for a bit in a different language, and eventually the fake plumber left and the landlord started trying to fix the sink. I told him that it wasn’t what we had agreed to at the tenancy branch.
After the first plumber, he hired another one to come. He showed me his ID and his credentials, did a good inspection of the leaks, and then left. And then the landlord started trying to fix the sink again. I had the letter in my hand from the tenancy board saying that the plumber had to be the one to fix it, not the landlord. But the plumber said that it wasn’t his business, and that the landlord had only asked him to appraise the unit as a favour. The sink kept leaking.
That was the final straw. I gave him one month’s notice, dropped off my keys, and I haven’t heard from him since. He kept my damage deposit, though—because, hilariously, he said I was destroying the property with the leaks.”