Hollyburn Targets Pets, Renters

Sandra Thomas

Vancouver Courier

A West End tenant says the company that owns the building in which he lives is evicting tenants while avoiding costly renovation or building permits.

“Give up your cat or move out,” said Andrew Simmons, a tenant of the Emerald Terrace apartments on Nelson Street. He was given an eviction notice Tuesday by Hollyburn Properties.

By Tuesday, seven tenants had received eviction notices, less than two weeks before the group was to challenge a recently implemented no-pets policy in a joint arbitration scheduled at the Residential Tenancy Office Jan. 16.

Simmons said it’s likely not a coincidence Hollyburn sent out notices of the new no-pets policy Nov. 24, weeks after a provincial byelection and municipal election. Simmons said newly elected NDP MLAs Spencer Herbert and Jenn McGinn and Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson ran on platforms promising to help vulnerable renters.

Tenants are concerned about what they say is a growing trend among property owners across the city to bypass rent controls by either asking tenants to pay more rent or by claiming a rental unit needs renovations and handing out eviction notices. Often the renovation turns out to be nothing more than a coat of paint, according to some tenants, but the move still allows landlords to increase rents beyond that allowed in provincial tenancy law. In the past year, the hot housing market in Vancouver and a lack of affordable rental units, particularly in the West End, has caused what tenants have dubbed mass eviction by renovation. The Courier has previously published stories about Hollyburn’s efforts to evict longtime renters in the West End through what some tenants said was such a tactic. Faced with evictions, the tenants formed Renters at Risk, of which Simmons is a member.

Simmons said since eviction by renovation has come under such close scrutiny by politicians and media that Hollyburn would logically look for other ways to get around tenancy legislation. “This has nothing to do with cats,” said Simmons, who’s lived in the building for seven years. “They’re just using another technicality to evict us.”

Herbert wants changes to the Residential Tenancy Act to better protect renters. He notes one of the tenants being evicted is 81-year old Mary Milligan, who has both Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthritis. “Her pet is her companion,” said Herbert. “This is just wrong.”

In a written statement to the media, Hollyburn Properties general manager Allan Wasel said the Residential Tenancy Act protects landlords as well as tenants. He said tenants who received eviction notices had been warned the building had a no-pets policy. “Although we do sympathize for the residents in this matter,” he wrote, “they knowingly breached the agreement and therefore have no grounds to criticize Hollyburn for upholding the contract.” He added if tenants need more time to find a home for their pet, Hollyburn is open to suggestions.

Check out the latest development in the Emerald Terrace pet eviction story.

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