A West End landlord seeking to jack up rents says he will consider negotiating with his tenants face to face at a March 11 dispute-resolution hearing rather than via conference call.
“If that is everyone’s wish, then we would consider it,” Chris Nelson, co-owner of the Seafield Apartments, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
Ground-floor tenant Brian Broster, who lives with partner Ross Waring, told the Straight that the couple face an $881 rent increase for their two-bedroom apartment in the building at 1436 Pendrell Street. That would take their total monthly rent up to $2,255 from $1,374.
“We have hard-of-hearing people, and they are not going to be able to follow the conversation [via conference call],” Broster told the Straight.
He added that long-term tenants Roland and Mary McFall are 83 and 92, respectively. The conference call was set up by the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch.
“They [landlords] likely will refuse [the switch], because it is to their advantage to have it over the phone, because people get interrupted, people get cut off, and it’s typically the group of tenants that get cut off,” Broster added. “The RTO [residential tenancy office] cannot make that independent decision to go live in a live room; they have to get the landlords’ approval on the request.”
Nelson reiterated that Broster should contact him.
“He’s got my phone number, but yes, if that is how it [hearing protocol] works, I’ve never been through that before,” Nelson added.
This possible concession would be a small victory for the embattled Seafield tenants, who were served notice of the rental hikes on January 14, when Nelson and fellow Seafield owner Jason Gordon, of Gordon Nelson Investments Inc., slipped information packages under their doors. Laundry machines have also been replaced and the rates increased to $2.75 per load per machine (from $1.50), according to tenant Melissa Mewdell.
It all comes at a bad time for Seafield resident Dana Crudo, who is pregnant and due February 1. She still wants a home birth, she said, though her home life is more and more up in the air. Dana and husband Bobby Crudo face an increase of $772, to $2,222 a month, for their two-bedroom suite.
“Chris Nelson says this is purely business,” Crudo told the Straight. “He rents too. If he had a landlord that pulled the same stuff on him, how would that change his life? I don’t know if that would just be business as usual.”
Gordon Nelson Investments is making use of the Residential Tenancy Act to bring rents in line with other properties in the area, Nelson claimed. He said he pays $2,700 for a two-bedroom suite at the corner of Nelson and Bute streets, where he lives with his family, which includes one young daughter. However, he remained unapologetic about the Crudos’ plight as they approach their own parenthood.
“Do you know how large their unit is?” he asked. “It’s 1,250 square feet. It’s one of the biggest two-bedrooms in the West End. It is absolutely huge. Most two-bedrooms are about 800 to 900 square feet. They have a large unit, and when you look at it on a price-per-square-foot basis, it works out to about $1.10 a square foot. We looked at 129 comparable apartments, and the average is $2.10 a square foot. We’ve applied to bring their rent up to, I believe, $1.85 a square foot. I would encourage you to look at price per square foot.”
When asked about the heritage aspects and the fact that the building has a community feeling within its walls, Nelson remained resolute.
“Are you asking me to subsidize their rent because it’s a nice community and it’s an old building?”