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'We're in a really tight spot': Renters in sold, for sale buildings fear eviction after ban lifted

Last Updated Jun 20, 2020 at 12:31 am PDT

Summary

Two tenants in the Lower Mainland explain how the lifting of the eviction ban will affect them

On Friday, the province announced that evictions for reasons aside from non-payment will soon be allowed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The moratorium on evictions offered a reprieve for renters living in buildings that are for sale or have been sold. Now, the province’s move to reinstate eviction rights for landlords has some of them worried and frustrated.

Evictions based on non-payment of rent remain banned. However, starting later in June, landlords will be able to serve a tenant notice to vacate for reasons including the sale of a property with intentions to move in, landlord or purchaser use, as well as for cause. That can include when a tenant is putting the landlord or others at risk, or has sublet their property without permission, according to the province. The change was announced Friday.

The ban has been in place since the end of March.

Aimee, a tenant in Port Coquitlam, says the change means the owner of the home in which she rents a three-bedroom suite can serve her and her family with notice. According to her research, the eviction ban doesn’t impact her landlord’s ability to sell the house, but it would prevent the new owner from ending their tenancy.

“Once the eviction ban is lifted, our concern is we would be given a notice of possession as would everybody else out there whose landlords have been waiting to evict,” she says.

She lives with her husband and their four children–boys between the ages of six and 16. They’ve been paying their full rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Aimee hasn’t been working so she can homeschool the kids.

“Not only is there very, very little out there — particularly for a family of our size — and rents have gone up significantly since we last were looking, but also there’s going to be a huge flood of people all getting notices all at the same time now. My fear is that there’s going to be enormous competition for places to live, and those places to live are already so incredibly expensive.”

Aimee thinks when discussion of the eviction ban focusses on tenants not paying rent and landlords losing money, stories like hers get lost.

“I understand the need to tell that story and to pay attention to those experiences but I guess compassion is something that can quickly deplete,” she explains.

“[But if it only] focusses on frustrations that landlords have, and the abuses that are taking place by tenants, my concern is that compassion for those of us who are doing the right things — we’re paying our rent, we’re taking care of the homes that we live in, we’re being responsible and at the same time we’re in a really tight spot — my concern is that compassion will dry up for people in those situations without that balance.”

Because Aimee’s husband has health issues, and some of their children have special needs she can only work part-time.

She worries about finding a place they can afford, and about how a move could affect her family.

“Bare minimum, our rent would probably increase by about $1,000 a month,” she explains.

“We have some family members who have some pretty significant developmental and mental health challenges. So, it would put a significant strain on the emotional well-being of our family, the stress of moving, of potentially having to leave the community. Our children would be looking at potentially changing schools and having to go through that kind of distress. Some of my children have significant difficulties with change, and routine and structure and predictability is enormously important for them.”

RELATED: Province extends ban on rent increases, will allow some evictions amid continuing health crisis

Sarah Baumgart lives in a different city than Aimee, but she has the same worries about leaving her affordable rental in Mount Pleasant.

The building was sold to a developer in December of 2019. She was given four months to leave.

“With the pandemic, of course, that was luckily put on hold because I hadn’t found anything. I was preparing to live in my van and become homeless. It was a very awful situation,” she explains.

“We pay low-income rent, I’m on disability, there’s no rentals suitable for us.”

She’s not sure exactly what Friday’s announcement means for her.

“I don’t know what this means, if they’re going to evict us or what is going to happen but I’ve been living with all of my belongings in boxes,” she says.

The province, however, said notices served before the moratorium was enacted will come into effect.

Baumgart thinks the ban should have been extended for all renters.

“Putting more people on the street during a pandemic, I don’t think it’s a really wise move to be allowing those evictions right now.”

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord BC, has advocated for the return of eviction power to landlords, and says changes announced Friday won’t likely impact swathes of renters.

“Let’s be realistic, the residency tenancy branch only has so much capacity I think landlords are going to be sort of thoughtful in terms of how they do this. I would be very surprised if the prediction of mass evictions actually unfolds,” he said.

However, Robert Patterson of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre says evictions amid the pandemic will put renters struggling with health or financial issues in a difficult spot.

“If you have tenants who have existing health issues, who are immunocompromised, even though we are in a bit of a quiet spot in terms of COVID-19, even if things are looking better those are tenants who probably really want to keep their homes and not be forced to move at a time that’s dangerous for them.”

With files from Marcus Fitzgerald