Evicted East Vancouver families call for restrictions on 'renovictions'
'It's stressful ... there are eight families you want to kick out by Christmastime?'
Eight tight-knit families in a building in East Vancouver say they're losing their homes because the owner of their building sold the property and is planning to renovate it.
The tenants are calling for tighter regulations on so-called "renovictions" — a process where a landlord evicts a tenant for renovations and then hikes up the rent to new tenants when the work is done.
"I was pretty shocked and upset," said Tracey Rossi, a single mother now forced to move.
Rossi was able to find a new home, but she said it means her rent is doubling to $2,400.
"It's a difficult time with Christmas right around the corner. It's upsetting," she said.
Other tenants echoed her sentiment.
"It's stressful, really stressful," said Jacqui Charlebois, another one of the evicted residents, who has a daughter attending college nearby.
"Personally, it's a panic. Vancouver is super hard to find a decent suite that a family can afford.
"Vancouver shouldn't just be a city for the rich."
The families held a multi-family garage sale and pig roast at their home near Victoria Drive and East Third Avenue this weekend to lift their spirits.
Charlebois described the previous owner as a "warm-hearted Italian man" who kept rents low for good families, but she believes landlords like him are all too rare.
Current residents are supposed to get first crack at any new suites, but they say they've heard nothing, she added.
The building was sold last summer, and residents were given notice to leave on Sept. 21.
"When we got our 'renoviction' notice ... they said they wanted us out by December 1," said Charlebois.
"We thought ... that's kind of mean. There are eight families you want to kick out by Christmastime?"
Rent controls needed in Vancouver
Charlebois said she wishes Canada would put in rent controls like she saw when she lived in Santa Monica, and her relatives have in other parts of Canada.
British Columbia does have laws around how much landlords can raise rental rates, but tenants can be evicted for major renovations that require the unit to be empty for the work to be done.
And once a new tenancy agreement is set with a new tenant, landlords don't need to abide by the rate restrictions.
"Here they can kick us out and raise the rent from $1,250 to upwards of $2,000," she said of the loophole.
She doesn't see politicians or community leaders doing much about it.
"Nobody really cares. It's just really frustrating," she said.
The families have filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancy Board. Their hearing is scheduled a week before their eviction date.
The owner of the building refused to comment, but confirmed the tenants are being evicted in order to renovate the suites.
With files from Anita Bathe and Michaël Bédard