Renters of Vancouver: “It was very devious”

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

      “I moved into a 10-bedroom house on August 1. By the end of October, I was forced out—even though I had an agreement until April 2018.

      “I’d already had a few bad experiences with landlords in the past, so I knew how important it was to have a good contract. What I liked about this place was that, on paper, it looked like all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.

      “There were two strange clauses in the contract. One was that I could only have a guest stay overnight twice a week, and it would cost me $15 a night after that. The second was that the landlord would stay over occasionally in the flex-room that was just off the living room. It wasn’t a homestay arrangement, and I was under the impression that she’d rarely be there. I figured it would be fine.

      “First, the roommate who lived on the top floor with me was kicked out. He’s Australian, and used the c-word quite liberally. That really offended her, and she told him to watch it. One day when he was running late for school, he forgot to wash his dishes, and she evicted him.

      “Next she turned on me. One day she called, and between working and studying I couldn’t pick up. I got off the bus and walked in the back door, because it’s the closest to the stop. The landlord was at the house, and she confronted me about not picking up the phone, and that I was using the back door. She said that I wasn’t allowed, which was news to me. She then said that she’d come to talk about my girlfriend staying over, and that she would charge me for it. I said it was fine and that she should go ahead, as long as I got an itemized receipt. She refused to give me it.

      “She wanted me to apologize for having my girlfriend around. I wrote to her and said that I didn’t have anything to apologize for—I paid my rent on time, I did all the chores, I kept my room tidy, I did the hour of gardening every month which I was told to do—everything that the contract said.

      “The landlord would only communicate through her personal assistants. When I asked for confirmation that the assistants represented her, so that if I would be covered if I wanted to use our conversations as evidence if needed, that rattled the landlord. She wouldn’t be able to turn around and say that the conversations weren’t endorsed by her. She sent me a long email back telling me to stop acting like a lawyer. She said the situation was stressing her out. Then she wrote that as a student from Mexico, to the best of her knowledge I wasn’t a Canadian citizen, and that I was here as a guest. She was calling me a second-class citizen, which was really low.

      “At that point I went to the Residential Tenancy Branch. They said that I fell in a grey area. Because she stayed for one night of the month at our house, she could catalogue that she shared a bathroom or kitchen with us. As a result, the Tenancy Act doesn’t apply, and we had no rights. I then realized that it was the reason why she insisted on calling us ‘lodgers’ rather than ‘tenants’. The house had a caretaker who was a relative, and they were designated the ‘lead tenant’. The fact that we were lodgers meant that I had no recourse to her constant bullying.

      “It was very devious, because it meant that if we had any disputes we’d have to go through court, which is really expensive, rather than the Residential Tenancy Branch. What made it worse was that the landlord was a real estate agent. Apparently she had three more houses in the area, and did the same thing to everyone.

      “I was really worried that if I went to court it would be easy for her to plant something in my room—she had access all the time—and I would be thrown out of the country, or that I’d get a black mark on my profile because I want to apply for PR and citizenship. So I decided to cut my losses. I proposed that we should agree to end the tenancy, and that I should leave in November. She said it had to be October.

      “I’ve now found a new apartment for myself, and I’m moving in soon. It’s handled by a building manager, and I’m definitely named as a tenant. This time, I feel like I’ll be covered. “

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