“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I’ve lived in Vancouver nearly all my life. Over that time, I’ve seen the housing market transform.
“I’m 28 years old, and I didn’t move out until two years ago, because it just wasn’t feasible for me to do so. When I finally was able to get my own place, the only apartment I could afford was this two-bedroom piece of junk in Hastings-Sunrise that I shared with a friend. I loved the neighbourhood—don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome location—but the suite was terrible.
“It had chunks of carpet missing. It had this really horrible colour on the walls. I found mouse droppings on more than one occasion. The wiring in the bathroom was strange too. I had an electric toothbrush, and I noticed that it wouldn’t charge. Eventually we figured out that when we turned the bathroom light off, it turned off all the electricity in there.
“My roommate and I weren’t making too much money, though, so we made the best of it. We made it look pretty cute—but it was still gross. We didn’t really talk to the landlord about getting things fixed; we just kind of thought, ‘That’s how it is,’ and accepted it for what it was. Then the bedbugs happened.
“We were like, ‘Hey, this is horrible, can you do something about this?’ The landlord was very accommodating, so I don’t have any qualms about how he handled it. He let us break our lease, and in the meantime I had to get all my furniture heat-treated, and everything was bug-bombed. I did absolutely everything in my power to make sure that I got rid of them, and didn’t take them with me to a new place.
“We still wanted to find a new spot to live though, so I looked on Craigslist. I saw an ad for a really cute two-bedroom laneway house in the South Vancouver area. It was totally ideal—there’s a reason laneway houses are so in-demand. I emailed them to make an appointment to look round, and they called me back. They rattled off a few house rules that didn’t seem out of the ordinary, until they got to the end. They said, ‘We’d like to come in and take a look at your current place—the apartment that you’re in right now—so we can judge whether you’ll be a clean tenant.’
“I was a little dumbfounded, so I wasn’t sure how to respond. I said, ‘Oh, okay, sure—let me talk to my roommate and get back to you with a time’. I hung up, asked her what she thought, and she said it was the most bizarre thing she’d ever heard. I knew of a lot of strange things that landlords had asked my friends before, but I’d never heard of a landlord coming in to inspect a person’s current suite.
“I contacted the Residential Tenancy Branch because I was unsure if what she was asking me was legal or not. I knew I was fairly green to the rental market, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the one who was off-base. They told me that what she was asking was very strange, but not illegal, because I was within my rights to refuse.
“I was worried when the request came through. I didn’t want the prospective landlord to see our apartment, firstly because it had bedbugs in it, and secondly because the treatments had meant that it had been turned upside down, and we were in the process of packing up to move. I didn’t want the landlord to think that I would be bringing bedbugs with me to the new place, because I had taken so many steps to make sure that wasn’t going to happen. Plus, I’m usually a pretty clean person, and I didn’t want them to get the wrong idea.
“We ended up deciding not to let the new landlord view our suite, and we moved out to Burnaby instead. We got a great suite out there, and a nice landlord. It was sad that we couldn’t find a place in Vancouver that was within our budget, but Burnaby was fine for a little bit, until I found a job that paid better.
“It ended up working out in the end, but it was a rocky two-year period while I entered the housing market. I’ve discovered that if you’re not willing to sign a cheque the day that you view a place, you will definitely lose out to someone who will. People do it because they have to. There’s a sense of desperation with the rental market in Vancouver.”More