A majority of tenants at a West End building are fighting back against their landlord’s attempts to evict them or impose a stiff rent hike.
The tenants allege that they have been subjected to a number of intimidation tactics since the property changed ownership at the beginning of August.
Residents of Hofmann Manor on Pendrell Street say the building’s new owners, Plan A Real Estate Services Ltd, have tried to get longstanding tenants to sign new short-term leases with vacate clauses when they expire. They also allege that the new owners have photographed or filmed the interior of their suites without consent and taken photos of tenants’ drivers’ licences.
In a Sept 5 notice, Plan A informed tenants that it is installing audio and video surveillance, which may be concealed, in common areas — a development that Parveen Khtaria, project manager at the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), says is of great concern.
“Of course, a landlord can install a security camera in the entranceway, [but] concealed audio? Don’t people have rights to private conversations?” she asks.
“We come home, almost every day there’s a notice posted to our doors, so it’s caused us a lot of stress,” says tenant Absalon Figueroa, who says he received three eviction notices in one week.
“The behaviour of the landlord is egregious and it’s disgusting, and it needs to stop,” Figueroa told reporters outside the building on Sept 10. “This is our home, and we want to be able to live here in peace; we’re not able to do that in our home.”
Xtra’s calls to Plan A have so far gone unanswered.
Khtaria says landlords can enter suites with sufficient notice (24 hours from the time of receipt), provided they follow the guidelines laid out in the Residential Tenancy Act.
Figueroa, who has lived in the building for four years, says he and 15 of his fellow tenants are reading up on the law to be able to counter the landlord’s actions.
Tenant Brandi Ross says there’s been a complete turnaround in attitude since the new owners have taken over. She, too, describes it as intimidating and unwelcoming. She, too, received an eviction notice, this time over tenant insurance, even though she provided proof that she has insurance.
Had she and her neighbours signed the new short-term leases, they would all be moving out at the end of the year, Ross points out.
“What they’re doing is illegal,” she alleges. “Luckily, we’ve all been able to rely on each other and band together. Having that support has been essential in being able to keep moving forward with the fight. Otherwise, if this was just me, I’d have been just too overwhelmed and just been out of here by now.”
“This kind of situation should never happen, but of course it does,” says Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.
“It’s not like the units need to be improved,” he notes, recalling attempts in the neighbourhood to “renovict” tenants on the pretence of renovating their units, then raising their rent. “They’re good units. The people here pay market rent; they’ve all paid their annual rent increase every year.”
Chandra Herbert describes Plan A’s actions as “greed eviction.”
The Residential Tenancy Act is supposed to protect renters, he says. “This is all too typical: a kind of a blitzkrieg of notices, of attempts to push out by saying, ‘You don’t have carpeting in the right place, or you didn’t provide insurance,’ even though they did,” he adds.
The City of Vancouver served Plan A with a legal notice Sept 3, ordering the company to cease occupying the building with short-term rentals of fewer than 30 days, saying it is a violation of city bylaw.
“We’re not interested in seeing tenants dislocated and facing this sort of pressure and intimidation and uncertainty,” Councillor Geoff Meggs says. “It’s just wrong.”