Renters of Vancouver: “I asked, pleaded, and begged them to fix it”

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

      “My troubles with my landlord began the day I returned home after my mother’s funeral in Ontario.

      “I lived in a one-bedroom ground-level suite of a large house in South Granville. The place was a bit of a dump, and I don’t know if my room was legal. The rent was only $950, though, so I stayed.

      “When I came back from being with my family, I opened the door and the heat was overwhelming. I basically lived in the utility closet of the house, and the furnace for the whole building was inside my wardrobe. The heat for the place was being blown like a strong wind from the four vents inside my 400 square foot suite. As the days went on, it just got hotter and hotter. The pipes were so scalding you could fry an egg on them. I used a thermometer to measure the temperature, and it was routinely around 37 degrees Celsius, with no respite. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t spend long periods of time in my home. It went on for three whole months.

      “I emailed the landlord and his daughter as soon as I first realized that it was going to be a problem, asking, pleading, and then begging them to fix it. Despite me making contact with them countless times, they would ignore me, and would say that there was no issue. I was already very distraught over the death of my mother, and his comments made me feel absolutely worthless.

      “During that time, I called both the Vancouver Fire Department and the City of Vancouver to see if there was anything they could do to help. The Fire Department said I should make sure all the windows were always open. Eventually a City inspector came, and he recommended that my suite’s closet be drywalled over to protect against the furnace, and that the vents be permanently covered. The landlord complied, and I was finally able to breathe again.

      “I applied for a hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch, but I lost my nerve at the last minute because I was worried about losing my home and not being able to find another.

      “Then the owner started entering my suite illegally. As I slept in my bed, he let himself in and started walking around my apartment.  He didn’t even have the courtesy to knock on the door, and instead strolled up to the electrical board that was part of my apartment. He was being aggressive, and when I protested to him that he hadn’t given me any notice, he just said, ‘I own this building.’ He did the same thing again a few months later. I don’t know how many times he’d let himself in without me being there before that, especially because sometimes when I returned home I’d find that some of my stuff had been moved around.

      “After that I started noticing mould in my suite, especially under my sink. I took photos as evidence.

      “Enough was enough, so I filed another case at the Residential Tenancy Branch. I asked for compensation so that I could move out of the building. But when I received the Tenancy Branch’s decision, it said that I was not to be compensated for anything. At the hearing, the landlord’s daughter said that she had inspected the suite and that there was no mould, and that he had never entered my home unannounced. She said that I had not proved anything with my evidence, and the Tenancy Branch seemed to agree. I don’t think they ever even looked at my photos.

      “In the end, I refused to pay the last month’s rent before I moved out. The landlord was very aggressive towards me, and said that he would physically remove me from the property. I am a single woman and I live alone, and his threats scared me. I went to my MLA representative, and he just got his assistant to talk to me. Then I called the police, and they confirmed that he couldn’t bodily remove me from my home. They visited his office to tell him, and then he let me move out in peace.

      “After all that, I got very lucky. The Vancouver Resource Society is a non-profit organization in support of handicapped people in Vancouver. It owns 14 units in a building in East Vancouver, and instead of placing handicapped people this time, they chose to subsidize the rent for artists. I managed to move into a brand-new and affordable bachelor suite, with a gallery space downstairs so I can exhibit my work. I feel like my mother must be watching over me.

      “The province needs to step up to prevent all those owners like my last landlord from taking advantage of people in this crazy rental market in Vancouver. It has to get better.”

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