Renters of Vancouver: “We have to pay our landlord to leave our suite”

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      “Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.

      “Our landlord tried to evict us twice.

      Right from the moment we moved in, things were difficult. The place was filthy. The landlord had obviously made no effort to clean after the last tenants moved out. The window sills, toilets, bathtub, sinks, kitchen counters, stove, and carpets were covered in stains and dirt. I emailed him to explain that I thought he should either clean it or hire someone to get it done professionally. He said it was ‘clean enough for my purposes,’ but conceded by offering a flat $100 in reimbursement, which didn’t go very far at all.

      The next month, things got worse. The landlord owned our triplex and rented it all out, so there were a number of tenants in our building. The trouble was that he favoured the woman who lived below us above everyone else.  

      As we were away over Christmas, she started sending noise complaints about us to the landlord. At first she criticised daytime sounds like the TV and our small music player, which we respectfully kept very quiet. Without ever approaching us, the landlord immediately began issuing written warnings, suggesting that it was his practice to evict a tenant after three notices. We received the first letter in January, and a second in February.

      Then things escalated. Our neighbour was pressure-washing his balcony at unsociable hours, so I asked whether he might be able to do it at a different time. He took offense to that, and retaliated by telling the landlord that my partner and I were doing meth and cocaine on our balcony.

      I work in the education sector and my boyfriend is a bus driver. He had a drugs test for a new job in February, along with a criminal record check. I also underwent a vulnerable sector background test for my work. We told the landlord this, but he continued to insist that the neighbour wouldn’t lie, and issued us with a 30-day eviction notice for ‘criminal activity’.

      We challenged that eviction at the Residential Tenancy Branch, and we won. He didn’t have any proof to back up the allegations, which were false.

      We thought that would be the end of the nightmare. It wasn’t.

      The neighbour below continued to complain, this time telling the landlord about night-time noises. I suffer from a muscular illness that gets particularly bad when I’m lying down, and I have to get up sometimes to try and reduce the inflammation with an ice pack before I go back to sleep. I’m quiet when I do it. I explained this to the landlord, but he failed to pass it on to the woman below. Instead, he issued another 30-day eviction notice, this time for ‘significantly interfering with or unreasonably disturbing another tenant or the landlord’, which seemed very excessive.

      I managed to have a meeting with the tenant below, where she told us that she was sleeping fine, wearing earplugs, and, as far as she was concerned, wasn’t being disturbed. I tried to contact the landlord to explain our conversation, and got no response.

      In the meantime, the landlord was unlawfully entering our suite.  Our furnace stopped working, and although he left it unrepaired for three weeks, he came seven separate times to ‘assess’ the situation. That wasn’t the first illegal admission either—when we moved in, he would often come by the suite multiple times a month to check for ‘repairs’, but instead seemed to be searching through our private possessions.

      By this time, we realized that the situation with the landlord wasn’t going to improve, and we chose not to fight his second eviction notice. Rather than live in an environment where we had no privacy and were continually harassed, we decided it would be better just to move.

      We took our case to the Residential Tenancy Branch to reclaim some of our losses, and they ruled that the landlord had to compensate us for the amount of times he had entered our suite illegally, resulting in our loss of quiet enjoyment. We were awarded nearly $900 in damages. He still hasn’t paid.

      Instead, he decided to try and get more money out of us. After we left the suite, he applied to keep our security deposit, even though we left the place in a much nicer condition than when we moved in. He also called for damages of one month’s rent. There was a clause in our contract that said that, if we were to break the lease early, we would owe him money. Because we chose not to challenge our second eviction notice, the Residential Tenancy Branch took that to mean that we were guilty of the complaints—even though we only chose not to fight the eviction because we were so sick of him trying to run us out of our home.

      I’ve been told that we’ll have to pay him the money. It seems a little unfair. We have to hand over $1200 to him for the privilege of leaving our suite, even though his illegal actions were the reason we were forced out."

      Got a story to share? Tweet Kate Wilson here.