Vancouver West End renters shocked by proposed monthly increase to rent

Residents of an apartment building on Harwood Street in Vancouver's West End say their property manager, Martello Property Services, is unfairly raising their rents by as much as 43 per cent, prompting the local MLA to ask for changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

Local MLA says landlords taking advantage of legislation allowing them to match prices to high rents in area

Spencer Chandra Herbert is calling on the provincial government to do more to protect renters in his riding, who he says are facing unfair rent hikes. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Darlene Lofgren has lived in a two-storey walk-up apartment in Vancouver's West End for the past 17 years, but now she's worried if she'll be able to afford to stay in her one-bedroom apartment much longer.

Last month her property manager — Martello Property Services —  informed her that her next rent increase will be a big one, an increase of $500 on the $1150 she already pays.

Darlene Lofgren calls her latest rent increase for her one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver's West End, 'insane.' It's $500/month. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Lofgren says as a renter in B.C. she is used to yearly increases, which cannot exceed the inflation rate plus two per cent as part of the Residential Tenancy Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

"The cap, you get used to that, but not 43 per cent, that's insane," she said.

All 11 long-term tenants in the building received the same notice, with increases varying between 16 and 43 per cent.

11 tenants from this apartment building at 1565 Harwood Street in Vancouver are fighting what they call unfair rent increases from their landlord Martello Property Services. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Local MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says the hike is another example of a landlord using a geographic increase clause in the Residential Tenancy Act.

"Because the landlord says there are other units in the neighbourhood that they say are renting for more," he said, explaining how a landlord can argue that they should be able to charge more if other nearby rents are higher.

Chandra-Herbert has campaigned on having the clause repealed as he says up to 80 per cent of West End residents are renters.

"The landlord has not put anything extra into the building, the tenant hasn't seen a massive income increase," he said.

"So really what you're seeing is if the landlord succeeds in their attempted rent increases, some of the residents of this building could be forced out."

A kitchen from a suite inside an apartment building at 1565 Harwood Street in Vancouver. (Amanda Burke)

That sobering thought brings tears to the eyes of Amanda Burke, who has lived in the building since 2007 and now has two children with her husband there.

11 tenants in Vancouver's West End say they are facing unfair rent increases, which the area's MLA says is happening more often. 0:55

Chandra-Herbert says the Liberal government needs to do more to protect renters.

"We're in a rental crisis, and we need to treat it as such," he said. "They've talked about a housing crisis but are completely ignoring renters."

The tenants from the building on Harwood Street have appealed the increase with the Residential Tenancy Branch and have a meeting on April 18.

CBC News asked for a response from the landlord, but has yet to hear back.

With files from Deborah Goble