Tenants Told to Move Their Pets or Face Eviction: Hollyburn

Catherine Rolfsen
Vancouver Sun

June MacGregor may soon face a terrible choice: her home or her beloved companion.

The 79-year-old is among seven tenants of Emerald Terrace — a West End apartment building recently bought by Hollyburn Properties — who are battling eviction notices issued because they have pets.

“I feel angry and I feel really, really upset,” said MacGregor, who’s been renting her apartment at Nelson and Charles for four years and has had her cat, Clouseau, for two.

Emerald Terrace tenant June MacGregor, 79, says her cat Clouseau is an essential part of her life. She says she will not abandon it to stay.

Some tenants have been living in the building with pets for as long as 16 years, and say their former landlords had no problem with their furry friends.

However, 15 months ago, Hollyburn bought the building, and in December, suddenly pets were forbidden.

Hollyburn general manager Allan Wasel said the contracts tenants originally signed when they moved in had a “no pets” clause. Now, he said Hollyburn is just enforcing that clause, citing health concerns around animals.

Tenants argue that the need for a pet-free building is just an excuse, since at least one renter who had her pet approved in writing is being allowed to stay.

“The motive is that they want us out of here so they can raise the rent,” MacGregor said.

She pays $1,100 a month for her one-bedroom corner apartment overlooking Stanley Park, but figures landlords could charge up to $1,800 for the prime location.

Several tenants are bringing the case to B.C.’s residential tenancy branch in a hearing this month.

Of the seven facing eviction, most had verbal permission to have pets before moving in, while others, like MacGregor, obtained theirs assuming they wouldn’t be a problem since so many of their neighbours had animals, said Andrew Simmons, a tenant spearheading the fight.

Vancouver-Burrard NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, who staged a press conference Thursday to highlight the residents’ plight, said legislation is on the side of the renters.

“Under the Residential Tenancy Act, if you have written or verbal approval for having pets, no matter who ownership is, whether it’s changed hands, that is your right,” he said.

But Suzanne Bell, executive director of the residential tenancy branch, said the law requires such agreements to be in writing, though she added that oral agreements are sometimes accepted by dispute resolution officers.

Hollyburn said tenants were given letters warning of the no-pets policy two weeks before they were handed eviction notices, which are effective at the end of February.

“This policy, as written clearly in the agreement, and further expressed by a ‘No Pets’ sign on the door, is clearly the right of the landlord and thus one cannot argue any intent other than upholding the legally binding agreement,” says a statement issued by Wasel.

In recent years, Vancouver-based Hollyburn has been in the news several times over disputes with tenants facing eviction.

MacGregor said she hoped the residential tenancy branch will decide she can keep her cat and her home. But if she loses the dispute, she said the choice is simple.

“[I'd] never give him up,” she said. “Clouseau and I will be on our way, looking for apartments, which is difficult around here. The vacancy rate is so low.”

MacGregor, who left behind her family in Alberta when she moved to Vancouver, said Clouseau is an essential part of her life.

“He just fills my days. It’s like you have somebody here in the apartment with you,” she said.

crolfsen@vancouversun.com

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