NEWS: The fight for apartment life
Vancouver apartment dwellers may have come to the conclusion that fighting an eviction at the region’s Residential Tenancy Office (RTO) is more or less a rite of passage for renters nowadays, given the increasing number of tenancy disputes across the city. Many of them have been attributed to low vacancy rates, rising rents, and landlords who try to exploit an already fragile market.
But the task of banding together with neighbours and bringing a dispute to the RTO is a time-consuming and mentally exhausting process. As a result, many tenants, such as Daryn Didyk, become frustrated and move out rather than deal with the stress of putting up a fight.
“We can’t put our lives on hold for this,” Didyk says. “It seems that the longer [our landlords]… just leave us hanging here, we’re forced to move out, because the psychological trauma of not knowing if you’re going to get an eviction notice reaches a breaking point.”
Didyk, a 27-year-old health-care administrator, has been renting a one-bedroom apartment at the Berkeley, a three-storey walk-up at 990 Bute Street, for five years. The 36-suite building, near Nelson Park in the West End, was built in 1926. Dr. Satnam Singh Gandham, a Richmond-based physician, took ownership of the building in June 2008. Since then, tenants have learned of his plans to convert one-bedroom suites into two-bedroom suites, and bachelor suites into one-bedrooms. Gandham was on vacation as WE went to press, but Berkeley tenants say eviction notices seem inevitable. Didyk is among the tenants of eight separate suites who are moving out by the end of March; his neighbours have started moving out at a steady pace over the last month. By April, only 16 of the 36 suites will be occupied.
“Your housing is your stability. Look what happens when people don’t have housing – you [have] the Downtown Eastside,” says Didyk. “According to the World Health Organization, defining determinants of health include stable housing. If I go on any longer trying to fight this, it affects my mental health, my physical health.”