Vancouver renters rally for senior facing eviction after 27 years
Tenants of Belvedere Court say its owner is looking for any excuse to evict them. The owners say there's more to the story and they're just following the rules.
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A renter group is fighting an attempt to evict a 63-year-old Vancouver senior from the Mount Pleasant apartment buiding he's called home for 27 years.
Steve Williams' fellow renters in the Belvedere Court building held a press conference Tuesday alleging the 2545 Main St. owners are seeking any legal excuse to push tenants out so they can raise rents in the trendy neighbourhood.
Williams' eviction is still before Residential Tenancy Branch arbitration. He was late paying his rent five times last year, according to a spokesman for the owners, although he paid up each time within the 10-day legal deadline after receiving written warnings. In B.C., a tenant can be evicted after three warning letters.
"We appreciate and value Steve's presence in our building," said Alice Hamilton, a fellow Belvedere tenant. "… They have made everyone's lives in the building increasingly intolerable. The beloved elders of our building are singled out in particular."
After three decades in the Belvedere, Williams was "grandfathered" into $425 a month rent, vastly below the average rates in the increasingly popular neighbourhood.
But a consulting firm hired by the owner said there's more to the story, saying renters have long-known that the 106-year-old heritage building needed major renovations in coming years.
"I think you're getting played by these guys," said Don McPherson, owner of Vancouver-based DJ MAC Consulting. "The case they're talking about of a tenant in the building right now went to arbitration. We don't know what the arbitration is going to decide … nothing's being done until that decision comes down."
Although Williams said the building's previous management allowed him to pay his rent late when he was unable to pay on time, that was no longer the case under its new owners.
"We only take tenants to arbitration if they're in violation," McPherson said. "His contract says you have to pay on the first … The new owners just took over the building about two years ago, I'm trying to get the owners to stay on top of the tenants — if they're late you gotta follow the rules and regulations and give them a 10-day notice."
And he disputed the notion that building tenants were being "renovicted" — kicked out under the pretext of needed repairs — as the tenants union alleged Tuesday.
"It's not renovictions," McPherson said. "How many people have been evicted from there? None.
"What has happened is the owners are going to have to put money into the buildings … there's problems with the electrical, plumbing and sewers."
Renters in the building are members of the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU), a members advocacy group which told reporters Tuesday that Williams' case is part of a larger problem in Vancouver.
They alleged that long-term elderly renters are often seen as a burden on landlords in Vancouver because their rents can't be raised above provincial rent controls, this year four per cent.
Williams was unavailable for interviews Tuesday, but has support in his fight to stay from his neighbours, dozens of whom attended Tuesday's event.
A senior who lives in another building nearby, Pat Perrino, told reporters he faced eviction over water damage to other units in his complex, but not his own — but with the VTU's help won his own arbitration case.
"Only one unit got water damage, but they insisted that other units be necessarily vacated by the other tenants so they could continue with renovations to the building," said Pat Perrino. "… The Tenants Union helped me through this process, without them I don't think I would have won the case."