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West Enders lose rental hike dispute

Ruling 'effectively means the end of any sort of rent control in BC': Herbert

 A group of West End renters are seeking a judicial review after the Vancouver Residential Tenancy Branch ruled in favour of their landlord’s request to hike their rents 38 percent. 

“We’re very disappointed and that’s an understatement,” says Seafield tenant Tim Pawsey. “It’s a huge amount of money [and] I haven’t really absorbed it [the ruling] yet.”

The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) allows landlords to raise residential rents by 3.7 percent annually. But landlords can apply for an additional increase if they can prove the increase will put their units on par with the area’s market value.

Pawsey, who has lived at 1436 Pendrell St for 30 years, says the public was not immediately informed of the Apr 7 decision due to legal processes. He says he can’t comment further on the decision since he and his neighbours are now seeking a judicial review.

“This decision, if it stays as is, effectively means the end of any sort of rent control in BC,” says gay Vancouver-Burrard MLA Spencer Herbert.

“It’s pretty shocking but this is the legislation that the BC Liberals brought in and it has been used by landlords to hike rents like we said it would,” adds Herbert, who is running for re-election with the NDP in the new Vancouver-West End riding May 12.

Herbert says the RTA decision reflects an unbalanced Act full of loopholes that benefit landlords.

“This decision is bad because it is based on bad legislation,” says Herbert. “This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening.”

“It’s Christmas every day for landlords now,” Stephen Hammond of RentersFightBack.com said in a statement.

“It’s just a matter of time before every BC landlord applies for excessive rent increases, and thanks to Gordon Campbell, they’ll get it,” he predicts.

“Gordon Campbell doesn’t give a crap about renters, and it’s time we mobilized to fight back and kick him out,” adds Christine Ackermann, also with RentersFightBack.com.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, the Seafield tenants are looking at a 38 percent rent increase as of Aug 1.

But the building’s owner, Gordon Nelson Investments, says the rental hike still isn’t enough.

“We are disappointed that we didn’t receive the full amount, but we respected the process,” says co-owner Chris Nelson.

The Nelson and his business partner Jason Gordon had asked for rent increases of up to 70 percent for a two-bedroom suite.

Herbert introduced a private member’s bill in the BC legislature last November to eliminate the section of the RTA that allows landlords to raise rents above the allowable limit to the market value in a particular area.

He says the only way the RTA will be balanced is if the BC Liberals are overthrown at the ballot box May 12.

“The landlords have tried to use any means they can. The BC Liberals have been pretty clear about not changing the RTA,” Herbert told Xtra West in March.

“I think the RTA is the only tool we have to ensure tenants rights are protected,” retorts lesbian Liberal candidate Laura McDiarmid, who is running against Herbert in Vancouver-West End.

“We need to be fair to everyone,” McDiarmid says. “If the RTA has loopholes, it is like any other act. It is fluid and needs to be revised.”

McDiarmid says she would have to review the current RTA before commenting on what changes, if any, are needed to existing RTA legislation; something she promised will happen if she wins the Vancouver-West End seat.

Herbert says the NDP has reviewed the act and are ready to reform it. “If we form government we will change the law to make sure we have balance between landlords and tenants,” he promises, adding that BC renters need to take an active stand against uncontrolled rent hikes regardless of who gets elected.