Senior’s Eviction Sparks Tenant Outcry Against Hollyburn

Bethany Lindsay

North Shore News

WV property company draws fire for forcing out cancer patient

A North Shore management company has once again been accused of attempting to evict tenants from its apartment buildings in order to raise rents.

Complaints about rent increases and evictions at buildings owned by West Vancouver’s Hollyburn Property Ltd. date back at least as far as 1981, according to legislative transcripts uncovered by housing activists.

The most recent Hollyburn grievances concern an eviction notice handed to Lynne Stevens, an 82-year-old ovarian cancer patient living in Vancouver’s West End, earlier this month.

Stevens and another tenant have been told they have 60 days to leave their suites in Emerald Terrace, on Nelson Street, so that the company can convert them into managers’ apartments.

In a written statement, Hollyburn’s General Manager Allan Wasel wrote that the decision to evict Stevens was “highly unusual,” and that the company is working with her to find an affordable replacement.

“Because so many new suites are under construction, we had no space for our new resident manager or our resident manager couple in training, who will be moving in on July 1.”

Wasel also said the company was unaware of Stevens’s cancer when they decided to evict her; she was chosen for eviction because her rent was one of the lowest in the building.

“Had there been other suites available for July 1, we would have relocated the tenants and found a straightforward solution,” Wasel wrote.

But Hollyburn advertises on its website that it currently has vacant one and two-bedroom apartments available for rent, beginning at $1,200 and $2,200, respectively.

Housing activists are fuming.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Sharon Isaak, founder of the Renters At Risk advocacy group.

“I just can’t believe that they’ve evicted a lady who’s been living in the building for 41 years.”

Renters At Risk has documented nine cases since 2001 in which Hollyburn has evicted tenants from its Vancouver properties to make way for renovations.

Isaak lives in Bay Tower on Harwood Street, and has firsthand experience dealing with the company.

In 2006, Hollyburn bought the Bay Tower building and sent letters to tenants requesting that they start paying as much as 50 per cent more in rent.

When the tenants refused, they were given notices saying they would be evicted to make way for renovations.

“They systematically evicted our building, floor by floor,” Isaak said.

The tenants took their cases to the Residential Tenancy Branch and eventually as far as B.C. Supreme Court, where a judge ruled in their favour, agreeing that the extent of the planned renovations didn’t justify eviction.

“Their renovations are just basic; they’re nothing fancy,” Isaak said.

Since the judgment, she continues to live in the building, but says she is constantly “on tenterhooks.”

Isaak said that she’s seen the company acquire seven new buildings in the West End since she started monitoring them in 2006, and has watched a pattern develop.

The evictions tend to happen about once every six months to a year when they buy buildings, she said. Although she added that they don’t do it to every property.

And though rental disputes involving Hollyburn continue to pop up in the news every few years, accusations against the company began much earlier than most people are aware.

Aerlyn Weissman, who also lives in Bay Tower, has found evidence of complaints against Hollyburn dating back almost three decades.

In a June 1981 transcript from the B.C. legislature, NDP MLA Gary Lauk advocated for an elderly woman who had been evicted from her suite in a Hollyburn building on Beach Avenue.

The transcript provided that the woman had received notice that the $700 rent on her one-bedroom-plus-den apartment would nearly double.

“A widow on a pension was facing a rental increase of $551; that’s a jump of 77 per cent. . . . This woman has been forced to leave. That was her home for over 13 years,” Lauk said.

Then-Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs Peter Hyndman answered that the ministry was in the process of investigating Hollyburn, “on the basis of a series of reports received by my office from various quarters alleging what appear to be unconscionable rent increases.”

According to its website, the company has been around for 37 years, specializing in “premiere apartment management.”

Headquartered on 18th Street in West Vancouver, Hollyburn now lists 21 West End properties — 14 of which have at least one vacancy — on its website.

The company also owns two buildings in North Vancouver, one in West Vancouver and 18 on Vancouver’s west side. Outside of B.C., the company has properties in Calgary and Toronto.

blindsay@nsnews.com

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