“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I saw an ad on Craigslist for a studio that accepted dogs. The building manager wrote me back right away, and asked if I could come by that afternoon. I was on my way out of the door to meet some friends, but I decided to make it happen. I’d been looking for a year to find a place that was under $1000 a month that allowed pets. I thought I was so lucky to see this one.
“The first warning sign was when he told me that the unit would normally be more expensive, but that he wouldn’t increase the rent because he ‘liked me’—a ‘smart, nice young woman’ who was replacing a ‘bitch who got a boyfriend and is leaving.’ I thought that was strange, but I’d been looking for so long and it was a really beautiful suite. I decided to take it.
“He then asked me to come up and sign the lease in his unit, and have a beer. I said that I was on my way to something, but I’d have a glass of water and do the paperwork. After the fact, I thought the offer was a little weird, but I assumed he was just being really friendly.
“When I moved in, he figured out my schedule pretty fast. He would time his walks with his dog so that he would be going down the stairwell at the same time as me, and he’d say, ‘Well, we may as well walk our pets together, eh?’ I didn’t know what else to do, so I’d agree. He was very chatty. I learned his life story from beginning to end, and all the bad things that had happened to him. Initially I was very nice to him, because he’d had a lot of trauma in his life. Being a compassionate person, I wanted to listen and help.
“Then he would start texting me to hang out. I didn’t really feel comfortable saying no, because if I did I knew that there would be animosity, and he’s my building manager. So he’d come over and vent to me. He’d say things like ‘Wow, you’re way nicer than the girl that used to live here before.’
“Another time I had to take some cheques up to him, and he said, ‘Oh, I just finished making some dinner—you should stay.’ I told him that I’d rather just leave the cheques. His dog was jumping up at me in the doorway. He said to come in so I didn’t let his pet out—and then I was in his apartment with the door closed behind me. After a while, I told him that I had to go because I had work in the morning, and he begged me not to leave. He’d been steadily drinking all evening.
“His kitchen had a dimmer light switch, and I mentioned in passing while I was there that I thought it was cool. He said, ‘I could do that for you if you want—it’s super easy. I could come down anytime and do it.’ I told him that I didn’t need it, but he said that it wasn’t a problem. Within days he showed up at my apartment at 10 o’clock at night, with a bottle of wine, apparently to attach the switch.
“After he’d installed it, he wanted a hug goodbye. When I did, he rubbed his boner against my leg. He said, ‘Oh, I can’t help it.’
“I told him that he needed to leave. I didn’t want to make it about him, so I said, ‘I’m sorry, I have to go to work in the morning, it’s past my bedtime. You have to go.’ He said that he would see me tomorrow. I felt like I couldn’t escape from him, because we lived in the same building.
“I went back to the Maritimes for Christmas, and had some time to think. He was texting me repeatedly, even though I was ignoring it. I finally listened to my gut, and I sent a message to tell him that we shouldn’t be friends, because he was taking it too far. We couldn’t walk our dogs together anymore, and he shouldn’t come down to my apartment. I said that he had made me really uncomfortable in the time that I had known him, and that—as his behaviour had proved—being friends clearly wasn’t something that was possible for him.
“He apologised profusely multiple times, and started begging. He acted like I was breaking off a relationship, saying that he could change. Then he got angry. The last text just said, ‘Fuck you.’ After that, it was all downhill from there.
“There was the fallout I anticipated since the day I moved in. Whenever the building manager would see me in the hallways, he would belittle me. He would have his dog, and say, ‘Come on buddy, don’t look at her. She’s fucking crazy. Don’t look at her.’ I’ve never seen him treat anyone else that way. I have friends in the building and they say that he’s really nice to them, and they don’t have any problems at all. It’s definitely targeted abuse at me, and very passive-aggressive—just because I didn’t want to sleep with him.
“One afternoon, I could hear him showing round people for an apartment that had just opened up. The majority of them were young women. One of the first questions that he would ask would be about who was moving in—and whether they had a boyfriend. I just wanted to yell out, 'Run.’
“I know I need to leave the situation—but I can’t afford to go anywhere else. I hope that people understand that this is a real issue, and it’s not just a one-off for building managers and landlords to abuse their power—especially in a city where rent is so high, and apartments are hard to come by.”More