Gordon Nelson Investments Looking to Increase Rents by Hundreds

The Vancouver Sun does a great job of discussing geographic rent increases, what they mean and the various legalities surrounding this eviction/rent-gouging strategy.

By Catherine Rolfsen

Vancouver Sun

Several West End renters, including an elderly brother and sister who’ve occupied their apartment for nearly half a century, are facing potentially hundreds of dollars in rent increases from their new landlords.

Another couple, Donald Ransom and David Bronstein, who rent a one-bedroom apartment in Seafield Apartments at 1436 Pendrell, recently received notice that their landlords are trying to increase their rent from $1,067 to $1,849 per month.

They’re not sure what they’ll do if the landlords’ request is okayed by the residential tenancy branch in March.

“I live on a fixed income. I’m retired. I’m a senior citizen,” Ransom said. “And there’s just no way that we could afford to pay an additional $800 per month.”

The couple has resided in the building for three and half years and say they pay yearly rent increases.

Twelve of their neighbours in the 14-unit building have faced similar rent increase notices. They say their neighbours, brother and sister Rolland and Mary McFall, have lived in their suite for nearly 50 years.

Now, the McFalls may face a rent increase to $2,277 per month from $1,325, according to the notice given by landlords.

Chris Nelson of Gordon Nelson Investments, the company that bought the Seafield last summer, said he’s only trying to bring the rents up to market rate for the coveted neighbourhood.

“We’re business people and we currently have tenants that pay about 50 per cent of market,” he said.

Among the documents presented to Seafield tenants is a pile of Craigslist ad printouts for nearby apartments going for higher rates than tenants are paying.

Permitted rent increases vary from year to year in accordance with the province’s inflation rate, and this year are restricted to 3.7 per cent.

But the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act says landlords can apply for additional rent increases in several circumstances, including if the rent paid is “significantly lower than the rent payable for other rental units that are similar to, and in the same geographic area as, the rental unit.”

Spencer Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Burrard, said he wants to see this clause removed from the act.

“It’s putting undue hardship on residents for no real benefit,” Herbert said at a press conference Tuesday. “The only benefit is to the large landlords’ pocketbooks.”

The company filed a request for rent increases to the province’s residential tenancy office along with supporting evidence earlier this month, a representative of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development said in an e-mailed statement. A hearing is scheduled for March 8, 2009.

In such cases, the onus is on the landlord to demonstrate that the increase is representative of rental rates for comparable units in the area, the ministry statement said. The residential tenancy branch will consider factors such as market rent in the neighbourhood and whether the increase is reasonable.

The branch can decide to deny the increase, approve it, approve it at a different amount, or approve a phased-in increase. If an increase were approved, tenants would have three months notice and the right to dispute the increase with the branch, the statement said.

Ransom and Bernstein said if the residential tenancy branch allows the proposed rent increase, they will appeal the decision and fight to stay in their home.

“We’re a very close community and plan to stick together,” Ransom said.

crolfsen@vancouversun.com

with a file from Tara Carman

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