Mayor supports ‘renoviction’ victims at rally

By Tiffany Crawford
Vancouver Sun

Residents of a West End apartment who feel they are the victims of a legal loophole that allows for “renovictions” gathered in the street today to protest their landlord’s decision.

An elderly man battling cancer and a pregnant woman were among the throng of angered and desperate tenants holding signs outside Seafield Apartments at 1436 Pendrell Street in Vancouver.

They want the government to close a loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act that allows building owners to evict residents so they can upgrade the building and charge more money for the apartments.

Owners Gordon Nelson Inc. issued eviction notices, stating they require the suites vacated by Feb. 1, 2011 in order to renovate the building.

The tenants argue that they have scrutinized the landlord’s building permits and believe the renovations do not require vacant suites. Ten days ago, the Residential Tenancy Branch denied their landlord’s decision to increase rents by 73 per cent.

The battle goes back to 2008, when then-candidate for Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson stood with tenants outside the building, who were facing an eviction date of Feb. 1, 2009.

Today, Mayor Robertson said the City of Vancouver has been working with its lawyers to find a way to protect renters, but have so far found no legal means to intervene.

“I appreciate the hard work of the residents at Seafield to represent their rights and the rights of renters throughout Vancouver who are threatened with renovictions, and are victims to loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act that mean renters lose their homes here in Vancouver all too often,” he said.

Robertson said ultimately the decision needs to made by the housing minister and the premier.

Dana Crudo, who is four months pregnant and mother to a toddler, broke down Sunday as she tried to describe the stress her young family is under and the pressure they have felt to move.

“It is a roller coaster. One day we feel like we want to stick it out and want to make sure, just on principle to follow through,” said Crudo, who pays $1,450 per month for 1,100 square feet.

She said she feels the pressure to move out partly because of a string of new inconveniences that have cropped up. Laundry rates have increased from $1.50 to $4 a load. Builders allegedly left exposed nails when they removed the carpet in the common area. The main water connection has been turned off for lengthy periods of time.

“It is hard to cope with when you don’t know what you are expecting from day to day,” Crudo said.

Her voice shook as she fought back tears: “Luckily we have an amazing community and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. It’s a complete uphill battle,” she said.

“We don’t have the time, or the energy or the resources to put forth. It is a system that is making it so difficult for tenants to defend themselves.”

Ross Waring has been a tenant at 1436 Pendrell for 17 years. He said some of the recent eviction notices included incentives to get tenants moved out by Jan. 10, such as two months free rent and $1,000 in moving expenses. But Waring said tenants want to stand up to what they consider an injustice and will do whatever it takes to stay.

“I say publicly here and now that the tenants in this building are willing and able to accommodate proposed renovations,” he said.

“We will appeal these disgusting eviction notices and we’re confident that the residential tenancy branch will conclude that we shouldn’t be persecuted this way. And if we don’t get justice at the RTB [Residential Tenancy Branch] — and sometimes you don’t — we’ll take it to the B.C. Supreme Court.

Amid signs that read “no tenant in B.C. is safe from renovictions,” NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson circulated and spoke with the renters.

Chandra Herbert called on the Liberal government to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to better balance the rights of landlords and tenants.

“Right now it is broken. It is not balanced and you get a situation like here at the Seafield where first they tried to renovict and that didn’t work, then they tried a 73 per cent rent increase and that didn’t work and then they tried all sorts of other means to force people out,” he said.

The law firm representing Gordon Nelson Inc. e-mailed a letter to the tenants of Seafield Apartments on Saturday, warning them that Gordon Nelson Inc. would take legal action against anyone who made defamatory statements about the company or its principals during Sunday’s rally.

ticrawford@vancouversun.com

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One Response to “Mayor supports ‘renoviction’ victims at rally”

  1. Derek Richer Says:

    How ironic it is for GNI to invoke a legal warning to tenants to thwart defamation, when, in fact, GNI’s treatment of the Seafield community already speaks multitudes.

    Some of GNI’s more stellar accomplishments at the Seafield are listed below:

    1) Initial action to proceed with renovictions (fall of 2008).

    2) Attempting to evict several tenants, based on either “conveniently mislaid” rent cheques or in response to tenants exercising their Charter right of free speech.

    3) Removing the 4 laundry machines, and waiting several weeks before replacing them with 2 machines with highly inflated fees (fees increased from $1.50 per machine to $4.00 for the washer and $4.00 for the dryer).

    4) Pushing for a 73 percent rent increase through the RTB, using the flawed geographic rent profiling clause of the Residential Tenancy Act.

    5) Having the hall carpets ripped up, thereby exposing the points of nails – a clear threat to tenants, particularly children. (so much for GNI’s claimed interest in safety and security!!)

    6) Erecting yellow fencing around the building, parking a dumpster in the parking spaces, and removing the vegetation from around the building, but not proceeding with any substantial renovation work (showing that the arrangement is designed more to inconvenience the tenants than to accomplish anything productive around the building).

    7) Turning off the water supply to the building for long periods of time.

    8) Evicting vocal, stalwart defenders of the Seafield community, by using the excuse that their suite is needed by a resident manager; yet for more than seven months a suite of comparable size had been sitting empty in the apartment building. Before this, the empty suite had been deemed sufficiently safe and comfortable to be occupied by a single mother and 3 children. (For 2 years prior to the eviction notice, GNI had shown no interest in appointing a resident manager).

    9) Resuming renovictions against the tenants within 10 days of losing their bid to receive up to 73 percent rent increases. GNI claims the Seafield building is in bad shape, a claim not supported by the 2009 inspection report which shows that the building is in reasonably good shape for its age; the building was well maintained prior to 2008, when GNI purchased it.

    10) The online publishing of personal financial information about tenants – a grievous breach of privacy.

    At every step, GNI are attempting to harass or gouge tenants, or offload costs onto them (repeated eviction notices, 73 percent rent increases, $4.00 fees for laundry machines, and a plan to install metered heating).

    The recent appearance of the “virtuous” labels of energy efficiency and security in GNI’s online statements belies the actual treatment of the long-suffering tenants at the Seafield. Consider the Seafielders’ experience as of late:

    ? anguish,
    ? stress,
    ? stress-induced health problems and illness,
    ? repeated threats of eviction or legal action,
    ? legal threats to thwart tenants’ rights of free speech and assembly,
    ? considerable time and costs devoted to mounting lengthy and repeated legal defences,
    ? diminishment of enjoyment and security of home,
    ? reduction in quality of life because of preoccupation with eviction threats etc.
    ? removal of essential services (laundry for example),
    ? and the publication of private financial information about tenants.

    Making a public show of reducing greenhouse gases pales drastically in the face of the considerable turmoil and suffering being imposed on the Seafielders.

    Ultimately, how we treat people in this life serves as the greatest proof of our ethical standing. Anything else is irrelevant.

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