West Hotel tenants launch historic $70K lawsuit against Vancouver landlord

93 tenants of a single room occupancy hotel in Vancouver are suing their landlord, claiming a multitude of problems left their home all but "overrun with criminals."

Residents say hotel plagued by rats and cockroaches, elevator and plumbing problems, and a lack of security

West Hotel residents are seeking compensation for a list of complaints. (Belle Puri/CBC)

Ninety-three tenants of the West Hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have launched one of the largest joint legal complaints against a landlord in B.C. history.

"This is a proud moment," says Wendy Pederson of the watchdog group SRO Collaborative. "Renters will take inspiration from the courage of these people coming together and taking on their landlord."

Residents of the single room occupancy hotel are asking for $70,000 in compensation for loss of services from the building management company Community Builders and owners Navtej BainsSukhwinder Grewal and Amarjit Mann. 

The lawsuit hinges on three main complaints:

  • 108 days of complete loss of elevator service
  • 73 days of removal of front desk security staff 
  • 49 days without hot water

The hotel, located at 488 Carrall Street, was the scene of a double homicide in March. 

"There are 10 elderly men living on my floor," said tenant Mark Sauer. "When they pulled the front desk staff, it was all I could do to stop the floor being overrun with criminals harassing the old men."

Vancouver police on scene at the West Hotel earlier this year after a double homicide. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Sauer, speaking at a rally staged outside the hotel, also talked of rat and cockroach infestations, and widespread plumbing failures that often leave 40 to 50 people sharing a single shower.

Tenant left 'sleeping in wheelchair'

Martin Melado, who is confined to a wheelchair, says constant elevator breakdowns left him trapped multiple times, either inside his room or in the lobby.

"I've had to sleep in my wheelchair in the lobby on more than one occasion," said Melado.

The elevator in the West Hotel was not working at the time of Thursday's rally.

Julie Roberts of West Hotel's management company Community Builders Group insists most of the tenant complaints have already been fixed. 

"Most...are for past items that were deficiency when we took over in December of 2014," said Roberts. "A lot of the issues have been resolved. 

Roberts says about $90,000 in donations have been spent on improving the condition of the building.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5.

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