'It feels like it should be condemned': B.C. couple warns of signing rental lease online

A couple is sharing a cautionary tale about signing a lease before seeing the unit in person after they were handed the keys to an apartment they say isn't clean or safe.

A couple who signed a lease for an apartment in the West End said they got less than they bargained for

Kari O'Donovan said they saw the condition of the bath tub over Skype, but were promised it would be fixed before their arrival. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

When Kari O'Donovan and her wife walked into their newly-leased rental unit in Vancouver's West End, it was a far cry from what they had signed up for.

"Pretty much everywhere you look you can see mouse poo," O'Donovan said, pointing to the mattress, cupboards and drawers of the apartment on Haro Street. 

"It feels like it should be condemned. We didn't feel good to sleep here." 

The problem has since been resolved, but the couple said their experience is a cautionary tale for renters moving to Vancouver from out of town.

The pair signed a six-month lease for the furnished one bedroom, one bathroom unit while they were still in Montreal and had agreed to pay $1,900 a month.

"Our impression was, for $1,900 a month, the place must be really nice. And the pictures we saw were quite different," she said.

O'Donovan claims they were promised the sink would be cleaned up before their arrival. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The couple saw the ad on Craigslist. They took a video tour of the place over Skype and all they had noticed then was a dirty sink and chipped paint on the bath tub. 

"[The landlord] said to us in the Skype viewing, 'Don't worry, it will be fixed when you arrive,'" she said.

Despite having reservations about the unit, the pair, who were living in Montreal at the time, felt their options were limited and trusted the repairs would be made.

But when they arrived, O'Donovan said, there were plenty of other deficiencies like windows that wouldn't properly close, scuffed-up walls and mouse droppings everywhere.

Plan A Real Estate Services, the company that manages the property, spoke to CBC News over the phone.

It denied misleading the couple and, after CBC News got involved, the company agreed to move them to a better suite in the same building, give their deposit back and allow them to leave after a month.

O'Donovan said the mirror on the medicine cabinet just fell off as soon as they tried to open it. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Cautionary tale

O'Donovan, originally from Vancouver, left the city for Montreal because housing is more affordable there. 

So when she decided to move back to Vancouver with her wife, she knew Vancouver's competitive rental market all too well. 

"We were leery at first ... but we needed a place to live and we knew we were vulnerable moving from another city," she said. 

"We felt so lucky that the landlord accepted our application, we thought we should take it because we didn't think we would get another opportunity like that." 

In hindsight, O'Donovan wishes she had sent a friend to check out the place in person. 

Finding an affordable rental unit in Vancouver is difficult and competitive, O'Donovan said, and being self-employed and not physically in town makes it even more challenging. 

The tenants say they weren't expecting to pay $1,900 for a one bedroom apartment that has deficiencies. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)