“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
"I was born and raised in Vancouver. I worked for a charity that was nationwide, so I moved out to Halifax and then Toronto, before having a chance to come back and live here. The first home that I found when I returned was really great. It was so close to my office, and it was a beautiful loft space around 6th and Cambie. I loved the neighbourhood. I walked everywhere with my dog, Zoey, and barely used my car. And then out of the blue—after five and a half years of renting—the owner decided to sell.
That was a stressful time. I was between jobs, and it was very tense looking for a new home. Everywhere I found that was pet-friendly, there were lineups of people. I went to view one place on Commercial and Venables that was an absolute dump, and was only offering a six-month lease because it was about to be torn down. People were clamouring to get it.
The next building I saw was an arrangement where a woman wanted someone to live in her home for the majority of the month, and then she would return to see her son periodically. When she was back, we would have to share the space. It struck me as being a little strange, and we both figured that it wouldn’t work for us.
Then I found this basement suite near Kerrisdale. It’s a fantastic place, and I really loved it. I was the first person to see it, I think, so I was really lucky in being able to snatch it up. There were a couple of red flags, though. The guy renting it didn’t want references, or any kind of supporting documents. I asked him who the owner was, and he wouldn’t tell me—I just couldn’t get a name. I think the building is part of a much bigger company, but I couldn’t get much more information. I was very up-front about the fact that I wasn’t working when I took the place, and he said that he didn’t mind. I thought it was odd, but I just figured it was a gift. I was very grateful to be there. There was a big backyard for Zoey, and a well-maintained dog park nearby—everything was perfect.
Six months later, I was talking to the property manager, and she said that the owner had decided to move back in. The house is small—there was a couple who lived upstairs, and it was just me in the basement. We were all initially given two months’ notice, but because the woman upstairs was pregnant and delivering around the same time as they’d have to move, the owner gave us an extra month. As it turned out, the couple found a place really quickly and were gone within a few weeks. And that’s when someone made the decision to start renovating the house immediately, instead of when my notice was up.
I was told it was going to be noisy, and that they had the right to be in there from 7.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. I phoned the Residential Tenancy Branch and gave them the scenario, and asked what my rights were. The person I spoke with quoted Division Four, Section 28 of the Tenancy Act, which is the renter’s ‘right to quiet enjoyment’. I let the property manager know about my conversation. When I heard back from her a little while later, she said that they were not in contravention of the Act, and that according to the City website they could work loudly within those hours.
I have no proof, but I believe that because they didn’t ask for any references or documents, they knew the owner was coming back. They just needed someone for a short period of time, and they definitely wanted me out of there fast.
I’ve just had some good news, though. After a long time looking, I’ve finally managed to find a pet-friendly suite to live, and I’ll be moving in two weeks. It’s a lovely place in Surrey, about 20 minutes away from my new job. It’s near a fenced dog park for Zoey, and fortunately my new landlords have three pets, so they understand what it’s like to try and find a place that’s suitable. It’s been tough to be forced out of two rentals in seven months, but I’m hopeful that this one is for the long-term."More