Renovictions on the Rise in Vancouver – Hollyburn

Report from Peter Grainger
Ctvbc.ca

Renter and newly declared activist Cynthia Holmes showed CTV several empty newly renovated suites in the Emerald Terrace — something she says proves the company doesn’t need to evict existing tenants. May 11, 2010.

Rental rights groups say ‘Renovictions‘ – evicting existing tenants in order to charge more rent – are on the rise in Vancouver, and one prominent company is a chronic offender.

For several days now CTV News has been investigating claims against Hollyburn Properties, which controls dozens of buildings in the city’s West End, after it handed an eviction notice to an elderly cancer victim who has lived in one of their Emerald Terrace suites for 40 years.

Renter and newly declared activist Cynthia Holmes showed CTV several empty newly renovated suites in the Emerald Terrace — something she says proves the company doesn’t need to evict existing tenants.

The suites are waiting to be rented at much higher rates than what recently evicted tenants had paid.

“[Renoviction] is the process of evicting whole buildings at a time under the guise of having to do ‘renovations,’ and then they’re jacking up the rents fifty percent,” Holmes said.

She considers it an injustice in a neighbourhood where the majority of people are not home owners.

“Eighty per cent of the West End rents,” she said.

Holmes and fellow renter Andrew Simmons showed CTV News advertisements for other newly renovated Hollyburn suites going for nearly double what they were before.

Rental rights groups say Renoviction is a pattern being repeated in some of the 40-plus buildings Hollyburn owns in and around Vancouver. And that’s just one of several large property companies doing the same thing.

It’s affected thousands of renters in the past few years and is getting worse, according to Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Herbert.

“There are a couple of companies who’ve gotten very good at finding ways around the Residential Tenancy Act to jack up rents over what the law allows,” he said.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman said he’s aware of the current eviction abuses and plans on tightening the loopholes that are benefiting the few to hurt the many.

“It can’t be just a situation where it is something cosmetic that would allow for any one to be evicted for a renovation,” he said.

But he admits there are cases when that very thing is happening.

“That’s where people need to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for an appeal.”

In Ontario, people facing Renovictions have the first right of refusal to reclaim their suite at the same rental rate as before their eviction. That hasn’t happened in B.C. – yet.

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