Tenants of Burnaby apartment speaking out against developer-landlord for neglect

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Tenants of a Burnaby apartment building are calling out their developer-landlord for “dangerous” living conditions, which they say is creating a climate of fear.

Sean Phipps organized Sunday’s Dow Avenue Tenants Group rally outside the developer-landlord’s upscale Shaungessy home in Vancouver. The rally called on the company “to stop harassment of tenants.”

Phipps tells NEWS 1130 tenants of Dow Avenue started to express their concerns in mid-February when they noticed the ceiling caving in and black mold, but the developer-landlord blatantly disregarded tenants’ health and wellbeing.

“Luckily it [the celling] didn’t … fall on the tenant directly. But when the ceiling fell away, it revealed quite a large amount of black mold in the building. And it’s also quite an old building. So there’s concerns around asbestos which hasn’t been communicated to tenants,” he explains.

Phipps says the landlord only started to work on repairs around the building once tenants got ahold of media a month ago. However, a new problem arose.

“They’ve gone about it in a way that has continued to put tenants health at risk, and not communicated properly with tenants, and had taken a retaliatory action against tenants efforts to speak out,” he says.

“The most recent example of this was locking out tenants from their suites, where they’re doing repairs. So a number of tenants have been given temporary housing, either at hotels in downtown Vancouver … or in other few places in the neighbourhood. But people still have the majority of their stuff … their suites. They’re still paying rent on those suites… At the end of this week, tenants found out that the locks had been changed for their suites … In other cases, they locked off whole parts of the second floor of the building. And so tenants are unable to access their stuff.”

According to Phipps, most of the building is made up of low-income people, people of colour and recent immigrants. He thinks the landlord has been actively exploiting them by pressuring them to sign new leases to move out from the building for future development plans.

“[They are] really working to create a climate of fear in the building.”

Phipps adds the City of Burnaby’s rezoning policies has also impacted tenants but to the redevelopment plan of Metrotown.

“Since developers are buying up these buildings, not to rent long term, but to eventually tear down and build condos. So there’s no real incentive for them to do any repairs, they plan on tearing the building down anyway or that’s kind of what they hope … and they have incentive to get people to leave early.”

Phipps explains if developers run the building into the ground by “making it just sort of a miserable place to live,” it encourages people to leave so landlords don’t need to rehouse or compensate tenants.

“I think what’s going on in the building is, is terrible and I think Peterson should be ashamed of what they’re doing to tenants,” he says. “Also, I think it needs to be seen into the bigger picture of what’s going on around housing in Burnaby. In the city of Burnaby, his own housing policies.”

Meantime, the landlord-developer has issued a statement saying they are abiding by all Residential tenancy branch regulations.

“Restoration work at 6659 Dow, including ceiling and unit repairs, is taking longer than anticipated, and understandably, it is proving to a stressful situation for tenants,” it reads.

“Access to the work site and several suites had to be temporarily restricted during these repairs to ensure tenant safety. The management team is attempting to work with tenants on an individual basis to best respond to their specific needs, and that is on-going.”

The spokesperson for Peterson also says tenants are being taken care of.

“The management team has attempted to be both proactive and reactive in their communication and arrangements with tenants, including the provision of temporary housing within the Dow Avenue complex. The management team has provided written up-dates to tenants on repairs, the desire to work individually with tenants to address their specific needs, creation of a communication hotline, and access to information on the rights of tenants during this process and going forward.”

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