Renters of Vancouver: “We’re determined to make this our home”
“Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's residents are dealing with the housing crisis.
“I worked as a paramedic for 25 years. After an incident on the job left me with PTSD, I had to fight WorkSafe for so long that I became homeless. I won that claim, and found what I thought was a beautiful, reasonably-priced apartment building in New West. Now I’m facing homelessness again, along with all of the other tenants not paying market rent.
“From the moment I moved in, there were issues. When I first met the property manager, he said that people with PTSD kill people, and made me pay six months’ rent in advance. I had no option, because I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else.
“There’s also a problem with the lease. All the non-market tenants were given a document that was for a one year, fixed term agreement. Often for non-market fixed term leases there’s the option to go month-to-month after that year. Our lease is very muddy and hard to interpret. Some people have been told verbally that they could stay after the lease is up if their income remained below the threshold for the non-market rent. I wanted to clarify that. I’ve now sent 14 emails to the property management company to put it in writing, but they will not respond. We think it’s so that they can reserve the right to throw us out if they want.
“We’re also confident that Airbnb or other short-term rentals are being run out of the apartment block. We can see the building manager—who’s the fourth building manager in seven months, incidentally—going outside the front door with a debit machine to meet with people that we’ve never seen before. They’re clearly checking in or checking out. It’s never at the beginning of the month, when people would be paying rent. That makes us nervous for security—how many people have to fob to get in, and how many people are using the amenities?
“The thing that makes it even stranger is that the whole building has to pay their rent through a website—which is another problem again. There have been a lot of issues with it double-charging, taking money out of accounts, or not sending the money to the property company. People have been getting eviction notices as a result. There’s a senior in this building who lost two months of rent. The bank can’t help you get your money back from the website, and the property management company is saying that it never got his payment, so now he’s lost a lot of his savings.
“The worst thing for me personally, though, was when they refused to do a repair. My toilet seat was broken and barely hanging on, so I notified the building manager. He said that he’d get me a new one, but he just had to check with the property manager. I ran into him a couple of times later, and asked him what the deal was. He said not to do anything yet about getting a new one. Eventually, he let slip that he wasn’t allowed to do anything about it.
“One night I had the stomach flu, and I went rushing into the bathroom. The toilet seat flew off, and I smashed my head into the side of the bathtub. It must have been hours, because I woke up freezing cold and full of vomit. I called a taxi to the hospital, and I was there for about 30 hours under observation for a concussion.
“After that I bought a toilet seat myself and deducted the price off my rent. I then got a 10-day eviction notice on my door. I had a phone conversation with the property manager—the same guy who said I shouldn’t live there because I had PTSD. He said that if my ‘fat ass had been sitting on it’ then it was my responsibility. I just paid the amount to him, and left. I asked for a copy of the eviction notice in case needed it for dispute resolution at the Residential Tenancy Branch in the future. He said that he never gave me an eviction notice.
“The most worrying thing for all of us, though, is if the lease ends up expiring at the end of March. Where do 80 low-income tenants go? We don’t know whether we’ll still have place to live. We love the neighbourhood, and we love our neighbours. We’re determined to make this our home.”
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