Seafielders Unhappy With 38% Rent Increase

seafielders get thumbs down from rto 2 Seafielders Unhappy With 38% Rent Increase

Seafielders learned that an up to 38% rent increase has been granted to their landlords by the Residential Tenancy Office after the tenants’ evidence “wasn’t considered” by the Dispute Resolution Officer.

The rent increase will affect nine units out of 14 at the Seafield. Two bedroom units are the most affected, with rents soaring up to $1833 next year. Two one-bedroom units are also affected by the increase.

The tenants who will see the highest rent increase of 38% are Roland McFall, 82, and his sister, Mary McFall, 93, despite having paid regular rent increases for the length of their tenancy (about 48 years).

Residents are not happy with the decision and are seeking legal advice and considering a petition for a judicial review of the decision.

Seafielders can’t comment further about the decision, but ask the media to review it, found in PDF format below.

SEAFIELD APARTMENTS’ RENT INCREASE DECISION

Download PDF of Seafield Apartments’ Rent Increase Decision

Background:
The Residential Tenancy Act’s Guidelines, in the case for an above normal rent increase, say:

The Area Rent Increase allows landlords to apply for an increase over and above the annual allowable amount if they feel that the rents being paid are significantly below the rents payable for similar units.

“Similar units” means rental units of comparable size, age (of unit and building),
construction, interior and exterior ambiance (including view), and sense of community.

The “same geographic area” means the area located within a reasonable kilometer radius of the subject rental unit with similar physical and intrinsic characteristics.

The Seafield is a 1931-built, three storey, brick walk-up building. Apartments do not have amenities such as dishwashers, balconies, stainless steel appliances, views, granite counter tops, or en suite laundry etc. The building does not have a pool, sauna, rooftop patio, elevator or other such amenity.

For the March 11 hearing disputing Gordon Nelson Investments‘ application for the rent increase, Seafield tenants compiled:
• A scientific survey that showed rents paid by residents at the building were in line with rents paid at other similar buildings in the West End.
• A custom analysis conducted by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation of their own Rental Market Survey, that shows Seafielders pay similar rents for their apartments as other renters in their neighbourhood.
• Photos and letters from other West End residents who live in nine other character buildings, showing that rents paid by Seafielders are similar to rents paid by others in similar (and in some cases, identical) apartments.

Gordon Nelson Investments provided more than 100 Craigslist ads of all types of apartments in the West End, most of which were renovated, in high-rise buildings, short term rentals and with amenities that the Seafield does not have (en-suite laundry, balconies, views, rooftop terraces, gyms, pools, secured parking etc.).

6 Responses to “Seafielders Unhappy With 38% Rent Increase”

  1. Disgruntled tenant Says:

    Boooooh! We’ve got to get this legislation changed. The drive for profit will eventually do us all in.

  2. That's Bullshit! Says:

    Very disappointed to hear that the evidence submitted by Seafielders wasn’t considered. The outcome smacks of corruption. On With The Judicial Review!!!

  3. Olivia Flynn-Gomez Says:

    If this is how the legislation is interpreted in practice, it shows just how terrible it is. All a landlord has to do is find one, just ONE comparable unit at a higher rent and they can tear up a rental contract? Far from guaranteeing a free market, this legislation enables and encourages price fixing. Where’s the corresponding provision for tenants who find they’re paying far more than a comparable unit? Notice that when workers in our province ask for wage parity and pay equity, the BC government tears up their contracts as well, so the principle of matching the highest price on the market apparently doesn’t apply to the everyone.

    A healthy supply of diverse rental accommodation throughout the city is essential for a whole range of reasons including our community life and our economic health. Every BC voter (not just renters) should be asking all candidates if they will amend this outrageously destructive legislation and restore balance to the rental housing market. Residents of other neighbourhoods in Vancouver should be particularly aggressive – your area might be the next targeted for economic cleansing.

  4. Derek Richer Says:

    Perhaps we should pay heed to Marcellus’ prescient words: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

    Any government that would expose citizens to housing cost increases of 38 percent or more is as morally bankrupt as any government which would use legislation to expose property owners to a similar levy. Most people are simply unable to increase their incomes to meet such drastic increases, especially during a recession; double digit rent increases are a grossly unfair tax on people’s essential requirement to keep a home. Additionally, the loopholes in the RTA which allow for renovictions and rentavictions (the geographic rent increase clause) are purely designed to circumvent renters’ tenancies and the maximum allowable rent increase. How paradoxical! Why bother with a maximum allowable rent increase of about 3.7 percent? Why be hypocritical? Why not openly promote policies which match the values in the hearts of the Liberal Government ministers? Why not admit to the public that the geographic rent increase clause is an instrument which is designed to reward rental property owners for their donations to the provincial Liberal Party? (property developers and rental property owners are among the most generous contributors to the BC Liberal Party).

    The Roman satirist Gaius Petronius offers two quotations which seem to be tailor-made for the poor state of government in British Columbia.

    “What power has law where only money rules.”

    Viewed as a statement, it suggests that those with money may use state laws to exploit others at their pleasure. When viewed as a question, it suggests that unjust laws ultimately block access to justice.

    “One good turn deserves another.”

    Well, we can see the net effect on the state of justice and fairness in society when a government rules according to the “good turns” given to it by political donors. The public good soon dissolves when the bottom denominator of government becomes rule according to money, not the common law qualities of fairness and justice, and the interests of the greater good.

    According to Professor Krishna Pendakur, a noted economist and a specialist on poverty at SFU, there is a direct correlation between homelessness, the cost of housing (rent) and people’s incomes. When rents increase far beyond the reach of most people’s incomes, then homelessness ensues. And once people face the prospect of homelessness, they are bound to face an increased risk of depression, substance abuse etc……. If one were to interview homeless people on the street, one would find that many of them are ultimately there because they cannot afford housing. If Rich Coleman and his peers in the provincial government were truly committed to solving the problem of homelessness, as a first step they would have revised the RTA to ensure that no more people would be made homeless through excessive rent increases.

    It is a reasonable expectation for citizens to have government ministers who respond to queries and concerns about serious problems occurring in society. When citizens find themselves taxed by needless trouble and toil because of a faulty law, or because of the depredations of some people who wish to exploit the law for their own gain, one would reasonably expect the minister responsible to take decisive action to uphold the public good, and to protect people from harm.

    However, Rich Coleman remains virtually invisible as the rental crisis continues in British Columbia. He regularly fails to answer letters and appeals by tenants who are afflicted by the faulty RTA, and the prospect of evictions or exorbitant rent increases. If a manager of a company responsible for customer complaints failed to respond to queries in such an overt manner, he would clearly be derelict in his duties. Does Rich Coleman not realise that he is an employee of BC citizens, and that he has a sworn duty to serve them to the best of his ability? One wonders why the Liberal Government bothered to give such large pay increases to cabinet ministers if some of them were going to ignore the plight of citizens within their zone of responsibility?

    Worse, the housing ministry has not tallied a good record with respect to justice and public confidence. What is the public to make of the unlawful firing of the RTB arbitrator Mary E. Mackenzie in April 2005 by then Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Rich Coleman? This firing was later reversed by Justice T. Mark McEwan of the B.C. Supreme Court. Arbitrators require independence since they do bear the responsibility of making quasi-judicial decisions. The RTB remains under the control of Rich Coleman, and one needs to wonder how the independence and neutrality of the RTB tribunal process fares? Is it free of political interference and bias?

    It certainly seems that the RTB and RTA are suffering from a variety of failures, which ensures that tenants are treated unfairly and are exposed to needless toil and trouble just to preserve their rights and access to housing.

    How astounding that all the evidence presented by the Seafielders should be dismissed by the arbitrator. Surely to goodness the CMHC rental market survey should count for something, as it is one of the leading scientific means of measuring the rental market in the area. Moreover, the scientific survey which measures rents of similar heritage apartments in the area, and which adheres to the RTA Guidelines (shown below), should be given some weight in the final decision. The fact that the arbitrator in this case has failed to accept the Seafielders’ evidence is very troubling indeed.

    RTA Guidelines say that:
    “Similar units” means rental units of comparable size, age (of unit and building),
    construction, interior and exterior ambiance (including view), and sense of community.

    Also, having perused Craiglist ads, I can see how easily one can manipulate the data to meet one’s objectives – moulding a so-called market rate to meet one’s inflated expectations for rental income.

    If one were to select 2 bedroom apartments with a minimum asking rent of $2000 and a maximum of $2500, one would surely find listings in that range in the West End, but none would be comparable under RTA guidelines to the current condition of the Seafield Apartments.

    However, if one searches in the rental range close to what the Seafielders pay, a far more relevant comparison emerges. A quick Craigslist search for 2 bedroom West End apartments in the $1000-$1500 per month range produced the following list. Note that one place on Davie Street (which happens to include a patio, an amenity not present at Seafield Apartments) has been listed twice, and the wording reflects some urgency by the landlord to have the place occupied before April 1st. (Could it be that the asking rent is already too high for the current economic conditions?) Also, note that a few of the 2 bedroom apartments in the selection below have been renovated, yet are still listed at rents similar to those currently being paid by the Seafielders. NB, a couple of the apartments are described as large.

    1)
    $1500 / 2br – 2 bedroom renovated west end (214- 985 nicola st) (map)

    Reply to: hous-rteqv-1104404354@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-04-02, 4:42PM PDT

    large top, second floor 2 bedroom in the heart of the west end. renovated with new kitchen, redone hardwood floors, lights, counters etc. good condition very clean easy to show avail may 1. no pets. includes heat and hot water in rent. parking and laundry avail. call 604 724 8605

    2)
    $1450 / 2br – May 1st (West End/Downtown) (map)

    Reply to: see below
    Date: 2009-04-02, 3:21PM PDT

    Bright and clean 2 bedroom available at CENTENNIAL COURT, situated just moments from Vancouver’s major financial districts, theatres, shopping and restaurants. With Robson Street only one block away, you’ll always have plenty to do in this wonderful and vibrant neighborhood. Enjoy a stroll along English Bay, or coffee in Coal Harbour, both only a short distance away.
    We offer a non-smoking pet- free environment in a beautifully maintained and quiet building. Included in rent are heat, hot water and hardwood floors. There is ample parking, storage, and a bright clean laundry room.

    Multiple choice incentives available if you rent before April 10th, 2009.

    For information and to book appointments please contact Colliers International- Resident Manager at 604.687.4489

    Jervis st at Haro St. (google map) (yahoo map)

    3)
    $1400 / 2br – Large West End Apartment (DAvie @ Broughton) (map)

    Reply to: hous-4gx2p-1085367457@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-03-21, 10:21AM PDT

    Large 2 bedroom right on Davie Street. Has a deck and tons of storage. Come take a look ASAP. Needs to be rented for April 1st!!!
    Call Kevin at 778 229 2946

    (REPEAT AD)
    $1400 / 2br – Fantastic West End Apartment (Davie @ Broughton) (map)

    Reply to: hous-p6yaw-1072054012@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-03-12, 12:45PM PDT

    Large two bedroom apartment with deck and plenty of storage. In an amazing neighbourhood only a couple blocks to the beach and with shopping and a limitless collection of restaurants and bars at your door step. Carpets will be cleaned on March 30th and the whole suite will be painted before April 1. Apartment available April 1, come take a look NOW!!!

    4)
    $1375 / 2br – AVAILABLE APRIL 1ST (WEST END) (map)

    Reply to: hous-ztn2a-1076554059@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-03-15, 4:40PM PDT

    1 BLOCK TO STANLEY PARK….
    QUIET NON SMOKERS BUILDING
    HARDWOOD FLOORS
    SECURED PARKING AVAILABLE.
    1 YEAR LEASE.
    SORRY…NO DOGS.

    CALL…604 351 8016

    5)
    $1500 / 2br – Character Unit (West End) (map)

    Reply to: hous-ctayn-1090987471@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    Date: 2009-03-25, 3:02AM PDT

    West End. Character 2 bedrm unit. Bright. Cove ceiling, h/w floors, French door. Mantle. Ground floor. No pet(s) $1500 per month. Avail April or May. 604-261-9557,

    Bute at Burnaby

    SOMETHING IS CLEARLY WRONG with the provincial government. In their blind quest for power, the provincial Liberals have ignored the fact that more than one million citizens in B.C. rent their homes and are growing tired of being exposed to the perils and uncertainty of an unjust and morally corrupt RTA. Good government means protecting people from unnecessary harm and upholding the public good, not just the narrow interests of a few political donors. It seems that Petronius was right: What power has law where only money rules.

  5. Anony-mouse Says:

    There are two legal questions which need to be answered. Firstly does the landlord have the right to apply, and secondly should the application be approved.

    In relation to the first legal question:
    s23(1) of the Residential Tenancy Regulation provides that:
    “A landlord may apply under section 43 (3) of the Act [additional rent increase] if one or more of the following apply:
    (a) after the rent increase allowed under section 22 [annual rent increase], the rent for the rental unit 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;”

    I.e., when determining whether the landlord has the right to apply for the additional rent increase, it must be shown that comparables at higher rents exist. In making this determination, it is correct to exclude the tenant-provided comparables – they are irrelevant.

    The second legal question is not correctly dealt with: s23(3) of the regulation deals with determining whether to actually approve the application for additional rent increase. In making this separate determination the decision continues to exclude tenant-provided comparables, which is erroneous – s23(1) implicitly allows it, but s23(3) allows no such exclusion either implicitly or explicitly.

    The decision should therefore have taken into account not only landlord-provided comparables but also tenant-provided comparables in determining the actual amount of the rent increases. Grounds for appeal.

  6. Charles in Vancouver Says:

    While I disagree with the whole principle of the market rent increase provision, I think there is something fundamentally unclear about how the law defines “rent payable” on comparable apartments.

    The Seafield tenants provided a survey that takes into account what present-day renters are paying for comparable apartments in the area. This includes people whose leases started this year, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Their survey answers the question, “How much rent do tenants pay in the neighbourhood?”

    Gordon Nelson Investments provided Craigslist ads, which reflect only *new* leases for tenants entering the rental market today. Moreover, their survey did not reflect whether the landlords actually manged to *find* tenants at that rent level. GNI’s survey answers the question, “How much rent are landlords asking for on new leases?”.

    So it comes down to this: Are landlords allowed to raise rents because someone in the market would be willing to pay more for immediate occupancy? Or are they only allowed to raise rents if they are way below the median rent on existing leases? The latter would seem fairer to me but the ruling suggests the former.

    Does the law actually clarify this at all?

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