“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I got a one-bedroom suite last July. It was my first real apartment after moving out of UBC res. It’s a beautiful place with so much space, and I never thought I’d be able to find somewhere like it in Vancouver. Unfortunately, though, I haven’t had the best experience.
“Around September, it started getting chilly. I looked around for the thermostat and couldn’t find one, so I began messaging the landlord to see if he could show me where it was.
“He came around to inspect the apartment, and then he confirmed that it wasn’t there. He said that he guessed that I just didn’t have a thermostat—but he told me not to worry because the temperature would be controlled by the boiler they had for the central heating. He said that my suite would be heated through the baseboards and come up through the floor, and everything would be fine.
“It was still warm enough outside at that point that I didn’t need the heat on, and I spent most of my time at school anyway, so I didn’t really think of it. And then when I went back to classes, everything got really busy so I put the issue on the backburner. But when October came, it got freezing.
“I kept on contacting the landlord telling him that it was really cold. I would be huddled in my bedroom in blankets, and sleeping in coats. Eventually he said that he’d send someone to inspect the heating again.
“In October, I got really sick with mono. I was stuck in bed for eight days, and I was really, really cold. My mom ended up flying out from Ontario to take care of me, and she was astounded by how freezing it was in my apartment. She was sleeping on the little pull-out couch. On the first night she woke up at 5 a.m. and had to call my landlord, because she needed to turn on the oven to heat her feet and the smoke alarm went off.
“She said it was totally unacceptable. I felt kind of bad that I hadn’t stood up for myself too much at that point—but later that day the landlord brought over a space heater to the apartment, and apologized profusely. I thought it would help.
“I ended up getting two space heaters—one in the bedroom, and one for the main area. I quickly found out that if I plugged them both in at the same time, it would blow a fuse in my apartment. I got around that by having one of them in the stove socket—which would get in the way when I was cooking—and having the other on in my room, even though that meant I couldn’t blow-dry my hair or plug in any other kind of appliance in. That was super annoying, but I just dealt with it.
“I lived in conditions as cold as 11 degrees Celsius until March or February, because that’s when I wasn’t using the heating as much. But there would even be nights in those months where I’d still sit there in a hat and snow gloves. I wished that I’d done more about it over the winter, because it was completely unlivable and unacceptable.
“Right now, I have a bit more free time, so I’ve been reading up a lot on tenancy law. I come home from work and I get on my computer to learn about my rights, and I’ve told the landlord what I’ve found out about our heating arrangement.
“He didn’t respond, but eventually I got a call to say he’d send another person to look at it. In May, a plumber came round to rip open my ceiling to examine the pipes. The story of why I didn’t have heating had changed so much over the year—initially I was told that the pipes were blocked, but when this guy took a look at it, he said that he had no idea why the landlord thought that I was getting heat from the current configuration. It felt good to have a professional opinion to back me up and validate what I knew, especially because it was one of the landlord’s guys that takes care of the whole building.
“Then I got a call to say that the landlord still had no idea why I didn’t have heating. He said I needed to sign the lease for another year, and that there would be no problem with the temperature.
“After that exchange I was fed up, and I sent a very strongly worded email. I ended up copying in my parents, in the hopes it would have more of an impact. The landlord had said in the past that he couldn’t install electric baseboard while I was still in the apartment, which seemed a bit strange to me because it’s such a small unit, and I’m out of the house for 10 hours a day at school. I told him that if he didn’t make a change I would take him to a Residential Tenancy Branch hearing. That’s when I got a call where he said that he still didn’t know why the heating didn’t work—but that it wouldn’t hurt to install electric heating.
“I’m going to sign another year lease now, on the proviso that he’s putting another clause in to say that electronic baseboard heating has to be installed by September 1. I hope he does it.
“Part of me wanted to not sign the lease and move out just to stick to my guns, but it’s hard to find a place. I was on Craigslist, and even though I only signed my lease last year, I now can’t find anywhere at the same price point.”More