“Right now I have to believe that we are going to win this. That keeps me going,” Lynne Stevens told reporters Friday morning outside the Emerald Terrace towers at 2045 Nelson Street.
Stevens has lived in the apartment building since 1969 and says she’s always paid her rent on time.
But last week she was told she had 60 days to find alternate accommodations on the grounds her one-bedroom rental unit is to be converted to manager’s suite by the building’s owners, Hollyburn Property Ltd.
“You have the option of filing for a hearing at the Residential Tenancy Branch, however, we are well within our rights as landlords to choose any rental suite to convert to a staff housing unit when using the appropriate form of notification,” Hollyburn property manager Sasha Gray noted in a letter to Stevens, dated April 30.
Andrew Simmons, another tenant in the same building, received similar notice, again to make room for staff accommodations.
Critics of Hollyburn, including Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, said the evictions appear to have more to do with management raising rents in the building.
Herbert said there are currently seven to eight vacant suites in the Emerald Terrace for rent, and therefore no reason to force out longterm tenants such as Stevens and Simmons.
Indeed, Stevens has been the building so long she is paying the lowest monthly rate than any other tenant, despite annual increases to the rate.
“We are calling on them to back down and let Lynne and Andrew stay in their suites,” Herbert said.
Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords are limited to raising the rent of an occupied suite by two per cent, plus the cost of living index — about a four-per-cent rental-hike cap. Anything more than that cap requires the tenant to either agree to the increase, or a ruling by an Residential Tenancy Branch arbitrator.
Stevens and Simmons have both filed for dispute resolution with hearings scheduled in June.
Stevens, who is also battling ovarian cancer, said the shock of the eviction notice has been “horrendous” and has forced her to begin taking anti-anxiety medication.
In a statement issued via email Friday afternoon, Hollyburn general manager Allan Wasel called the Emerald Terrace eviction situation “highly unusual.”
“We’re currently upgrading several of our suites and undertaking a large-scale renovation in the building and we had to make a decision that was best for all residents. Because so many suites are under construction, we had no space for our new resident manager or our resident manager couple in training. The resident manager positions were added to the building after several residents requested on-site management support,” the email states.
“Our decision to issue notice was purely a business decision; it made the most sense to put our new resident manager and resident managers in training in the suites that rent for the lowest price.”
Wasel said neither tenant’s personal situation was a factor in the decision and the company was not aware of Stevens’ ill health.
“Had there been other suites available, we would have relocated the tenants and found a straightforward solution,” the email states, adding the company will work with the displaced tenants to find new accommodation in a neighbouring rental building within their respective budgets.
Emerald Terrace is the rental building where Hollyburn threatened to evict 10 pet owners in 2009. The tenants fought back, taking their case to the Residential Tenancy Branch where all 10 evictions were set aside.
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