An HIV-positive man is the latest casualty in the ongoing string of West End rental disputes after another apartment building was mass evicted for what tenants are calling a “renoviction.”
Brian Garlick, 65, and neighbours in 21 other suites of the Berkeley building at 990 Bute St were presented with eviction notices May 8.
They have been given until Jul 31 to vacate pending plans to “gut” the building or “renovate in a manner that doesn’t allow tenants to stay,” say residents.
Tenants say the news didn’t come as a shock since rumours of eviction and renovation began circulating after one of the alleged four landlords, Dr Satnam Singh Gandham, took over the building last summer..
“We’ve been living under the threat of eviction since late last year,” says tenant Dominic Schaefer.
For Garlick, who relies on St Paul’s Hospital’s HIV/AIDS resources for ongoing care and support, living in the West End is more of a lifeline than a luxury.
“Not only would moving be expensive, but it would be too unhealthy for a person with respiratory problems,” says Garlick, who has contracted pneumonia three times in the last fives years due to HIV complications
Garlick blames the provincial government. “I am so goddamned angry with the system in this province. It just seems to shit on the people,” he says. “We’ve just been screwed royally by the government.”
Schaefer too blames the BC Liberals for the rental disputes plaguing the West End. The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) “has to change if tenants are to have their rights respected,” he asserts.
“If there was some way the city could fix this we would,” says gay city councillor Tim Stevenson.
But “the Liberals have been leaving loopholes that they’re not interesting in plugging up,” he alleges.
< Stevenson put forward a motion, passed by city council last December, asking the province to amend the RTA to give tenants the right of first refusal after their suites are renovated, which could dissuade landlords from evicting tenants for renovations. Asked if there is any way the city could better scrutinize the building inspection process when issuing renovation permits, Stevenson says the city is bound by law to honour all permits once inspection has been approved “It’s sad,” says Spencer Herbert, the newly elected gay MLA for Vancouver West End. “If he [Garlick] gets forced out of his home, with the low vacancy rate, he could be forced out of the community. >“Being evicted from your home, and by default often from the West End, is a traumatic experience and one that our government should not allow to happen so easily or flippantly,” Herbert says.
“Yet big landlords continue to use Liberal government loopholes to force West Enders out of their homes and out of the community,” he says. “Despite continued warnings and pleas, the Liberals have refused to take action to protect renters and create a more balanced Tenancy Act.”
Herbert has been a vocal supporter of tenants’ rights in the West End since he was elected to represent the old riding of Vancouver-Burrard in last October’s by-election. Last November, he introduced a private member’s bill to amend the RTA to prevent landlords from seeking rent increases above the annual allowable limit for units priced under the market value in a particular geographic area.
The bill never got past first reading.
“I’m not sure I will be able to stay in the West End,” says Schaefer
“It’s pretty grim out there,” he says, referring to the low vacancy rates and escalating rents in the area.
“I don’t know what the gay community is like in Burnaby, but I’m sure it’s nothing like the West End,” he adds, concerned about his gay neighbours’ displacement from the community.
Attempts to contact Gandham have so far been unsuccessful and the identity of the alleged other three building owners is unknown at this time.
>However, the receptionist at the Richmond medical office where Gandham works says she was told to tell anyone inquiring about the eviction that he no longer owns the property at 990 Bute St.
Tenants are saying otherwise. “It’s a joke,” claims Schaefer. He says the tenants have sent numerous letters to Gandham but received no response.
All correspondence between Gandham and the tenants has gone through an on-site building manager, he says.
Schaefer says the fight to save his home has just begun.
He and Garlick and some of their neighbours are seeking arbitration. “We are planning to go to the Residential Tenancy Office,” he says. “We don’t have a lot of confidence in them [the RTB] but we want to fight this on every level.”