The Real Reason Tenants are Being Turfed by Hollyburn

The Province does a good job in this article Seafield Apartments residents found today. Jon Ferry dismantles Hollyburn’s rationale for evicting Emerald Terrace tenants who have pets. Allergies? Come on.

Jon Ferry

The Province

Tshoo . . . tshoo. As my pals will tell you, I’m an allergic guy who reacts badly to everything from dust mites to cheap jewelry. But there’s nothing I’m more allergic to than horsefeathers.

And that’s what I think landlord Hollyburn Properties is dishing up in threatening to evict 81-year-old Mary Milligan, 79-year-old June MacGregor and five other cat-owning residents of a Nelson Street highrise.

Sure, Emerald Terrace is officially a no-pets building. But Milligan, who has a Siamese-cross called Niko, said she moved into Emerald Terrace more than two years ago, and was told it was fine for her to have a cat.

“I don’t want to move again. Moving’s a horrible job,” she told me yesterday, before confirming she suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

MacGregor said the previous building manager saw her ragdoll cat, Inspector Clouseau, in her suite three years ago: “She said he was a lovely cat.” In other words, the manager OK’d the cat’s presence there.

But, as Province reporter Kent Spencer has noted, Hollyburn won’t honour such verbal agreements. It says the West End building has a no-pets policy because of “potential health risks associated with animals, such as allergic reactions” — which can be “fatal” for kids.

“The negative consequences are just too great,” insists general manager Allan Wasel.

What, though, about the negative consequences to the pet owners? Lola Funk, 51, has been an Emerald Terrace tenant for more than 16 years. She told me the issue isn’t really about pets at all: “It’s about getting long-term tenants out by whatever means it takes.” Certainly, some folks are allergic to cats. But these particular cats are not running around the corridors. They are in their owners’ suites, providing comfort and companionship.

And exactly how many British Columbians have died from cat allergies? Our newspaper’s library database couldn’t find a report of any.

And I agree with Vancouver-Burrard’s NDP MLA, Spencer Herbert, that what Hollyburn seems to want to do is raise rents by turfing out existing tenants. Which creates huge problems for the tenants in a tight market like Vancouver, where rents are already through the roof.

“They are all single people. They live in one-bedroom places, and these [the cats] are their friends,” Herbert says.

We live in economic hard times. And fairness dictates we close any loophole in the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act that allows bullying landlords to cause tenants unnecessary hardship.

One of the loopholes most commonly used involves evicting existing tenants to do cosmetic renovations, then jacking up the rent.

In Ontario, new landlord-tenant legislation gives evicted tenants whose suites have been renovated the right to move back in — at the old rent (plus any allowable annual increase).

That’s the kind of tenant-friendly legislation we need here — at least if some landlords continue to be allergic to the milk of human kindness.

Check out the latest development in the Emerald Terrace pet eviction story.

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