Surrey tenants told to pay rent increase or face eviction

Some tenants of a Surrey apartment building say they’ve been told to agree to a 40 per cent rent increase, or their suites will be sold, Monika Gul reports.

Some tenants of a Surrey apartment building say they have been told to agree to a rent increase of over 40 per cent, or their suites will be sold.

Linda de Gonzalez has lived in the apartment building for 21 years.

“I don’t have anywhere … I have nowhere else to go. I can’t afford it. I’m on a pension, I’m on a fixed income, I can’t afford to move, I can’t afford the rents,” she said.

“I was just so devastated, I sat on the floor and cried.”

Seventy-year-old de Gonzalez isn’t the only one, far from it in fact. She says about 30 out of roughly 70 suites have received similar notices. Many tenants are seniors and immigrants who have lived in the building for lengthy periods of time.

“At first it was shock and disbelief and ‘god, what am I going to do now?'” said Rodd Hill, another tenant in the building.

“I don’t want to move, but I’ll have to move because I can’t afford a 50 per cent or 40 per cent jump on my rent. You know, it’s just not feasible.”

In the letter tenants received, building management says the provincial government has allowed landlords minimal rent increases over the last three years and it can’t continue to absorb increases in operating costs like property taxes and utilities with rent prices as they are.

It adds the building is strata titled, which means they could sell a resident’s suite at any time.

Robert Patterson, a lawyer at the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, says the situation highlights gaps in regulations and protections for tenants – and cities have to take more aggressive steps to preserve rental stock.

“In this particular case where a landlord is saying, ‘we’re going to sell the unit unless you agree to this increase’ – there’s nothing illegal about a landlord, first, selling a rental unit, and there’s also nothing illegal about a landlord asking a tenant if they will agree, in writing, to an above allowable rent increase,” he explained.

“In a similar situation, the City of New Westminster actually adopted a new rental-only zoning bylaw that made sure that rental units could not be sold and then owner occupied.”

de Gonzalez says she and other tenants are getting help from the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. She says she does not plan to agree to the rent hike, and hopes the unit will not be sold either.

“If I take that risk and I lose and, you know, my bluff gets called, I’ll end up living in my car with my parrots in cages in the back seat and, you know, living at the Wal-Mart parking lot or the public library parking lot or somewhere like that. And just be homeless,” she said.

In an email to CityNews, the Residential Tenancy Branch says it is reaching out to the landlord to gather more information.

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