British Columbia

'Renoviction' fears spark special meeting after a handful of tenants receive eviction notices

A company that has bought up older rental buildings in Victoria is trying to reassure people that it's not planning 'renovictions', despite handing out eviction notices.

Eviction notices handed out to at least 5 tenants has older renters afraid, demanding answers

David Eby, NDP housing critic, talks to Victoria-area renters concerned about potential renovictions. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Close to 200 people — most of them seniors — attended a community meeting Thursday in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria, concerned about "renovictions" after hearing some of their neighbours were fighting eviction notices.

The event was hosted by Carole James, NDP MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill. James told CBC a handful of constituents had contacted her about receiving eviction notices soon after their rental tower was bought by Starlight Investments Ltd of Ontario.

Marion Bowman is worried a company which bought the building she lives is in planning renovictions. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Starlight Investments owns six apartment buildings in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria. 

Marion Bowman said soon after her building was sold to Starlight, she received notice that her apartment was being reviewed for upcoming decorating, renovations or alterations.

It made her nervous. 

"It made me think they were going to throw me out and do renovations," she told CBC News.

Bowman's building war recently purchased by the company Starlight Investments. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A company spokesman told CBC there are plans to renovate but not until units are empty.

"I think there is a mistaken impression of what is happening at those buildings," said Danny Roth in a phone interview."We are happy to try where we can to ease concerns that tenants may have."

But Bowman and the others who attended the meeting want written guarantees from Starlight that they won't be evicted.

(Megan Thomas/CBC)

Currently there is nothing in the residential tenancy act to protect a renter from a so-called "renoviction", where a landlord evicts a tenant for some measure of renovations and then hikes up the rent when the work is done. 

NDP housing critic David Eby was also in attendance at the meeting and says there needs to be legislation around the issue of "renoviction". 

"It's a really common practice," he said. "We saw it a lot in the West End around two years ago."

Eby also cautioned that even if the tenants received a written guarantee from Starlight Investments. it might not be worth the paper it's written on.  

"I understand wanting to have that certainty, but there is no guarantee that when they say, we are not "renovicting" anybody, that they won't do that in the future," he said.

The rental vacancy rate in Victoria is currently below one per cent.

With files from Megan Thomas, Karin Larsen

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