“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“My friends have lived in a house that’s world-renowned in our skateboarding scene for eight years. I’ve been there for two, which is a pretty long time. It was completely out of the blue when we got an eviction notice.
“The house is famous among skaters. We normally have between nine and 11 people there year-round, but in our skateboarding season it can go up to about 26 for a few months because individuals come to crash at our place. A lot of people don’t really have enough money to be staying in hotels for things like competitions, so the house is a big part of the community.
“We’ve had a verbal agreement for the last seven years that the landlord won’t take care of anything that breaks—we fix everything ourselves and use our own money—and in return he turns a blind eye to the amount of people who live there. When we took over the house, there was a pretty bad mould problem, and mice, and the basement floods. The house didn’t really have locks, either. The agreement was that we’d have the property until it was torn down.
“That all changed one day. I came outside, and the landlord’s father was walking around our yard. I’d never seen him before, so I went down to say hello and asked if he needed any help. He kept repeating things like ‘where is the gate’—there used to be a gate in the backyard but it was broken and the landlord didn’t want to fix it, so we threw it out. He then started saying how he was worried about a tree in the front yard and how it might affect the foundations. We thought everything would be fine at that point because if he was concerned about sturdiness of the house, it would mean that the family wasn’t ready to tear it down.
“The next day, he walked back into our home with his son, completely unannounced. He took some pictures, and an hour later he came back with an eviction notice.
“That eviction wasn’t legally valid, so we filed our papers with the Residential Tenancy Branch to stop him. But soon after he gave us another eviction order which did comply with the tenancy act, based on the fact that a lot of people live here.
“He’s now emailing us regularly, asking us to do tasks like repainting the whole house, or fixing the floor of the balcony. These are all problems that we’ve been telling the landlord about for years, and he's never asked us to repair them, nor has he done a single thing about himself. Now they’re trying to get us to foot the bill for it, even though the son has known for years and years that it’s been this way, and it’s not our responsibility to repair structural damage to the house. We tried to have a conversation with the landlord lots of times when things broke that we didn't have the skills to repair, but he didn’t seem to care.
“There are also a lot of problems with our lease. There’s no date on it. It doesn’t have an address. The amount that we are paying in rent is different to what is on the agreement. On top of that, there are technically two suites in the house, so there are two signatories on the lease. Now the landlord is saying that he didn’t give us permission to sublet out any rooms, as if only two people were allowed to live in this giant property—even though he knew there were more than that staying there.
“I’ll be the first to admit that no-one really wants their house to look like what it does now. But at the same time, we always thought that we’d have the place until it was torn down, like the landlord said. We never thought people would live in the house after us. Now we’ve been told that they want to renovate the property, and obviously increase the rent.
“I’m not sure what we’re all going to do next. It’s very competitive to find a new place to live, and none of us are the best candidates—we’re all quite young and don’t have the biggest incomes. Everywhere we look is at least $1200 more for 1000 square feet less. ”More