Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Big Landlord and Tenant Dispute at a Downtown Eastside building

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

September 2nd, 2013

 BC landlord and tenant dispute

Vancouver readers we have a big dispute between a landlord and tenants (and tenants and poverty activists).

The issue is over rooms at 259 Powell.

What Is the Problem?

According to the Province the Downtown Eastside activists says the landlord has evicted a couple of people without following the rules.

They also claim the landlord has ‘bribed’ some tenants to move and speak well of the landlord to counter what the tenants say.

What’s Happening?

We have posts about bad landlords and bad tenants.

This time the issue is a little different. The conflict is about the debate over gentrification of the Downtown Eastside.

What Does the Landlord Say?

Geoffrey Howes, of Living Balance, said the company recently succeeded in legally evicting a tenant who was a “major drug dealer.”

Howes said there have been two legal evictions in the building, adding: “We have had ongoing problems with rampant drug dealing in the building.”

Howes said dealers would leave the alleyway door propped open, and threaten caretakers and other tenants. “We had strangers lining up in the hallway at all hours, needles everywhere.”

“We got support from the tenancy branch to evict the primary dealer,” he said, offering documentation from the branch.

“The fact is, the only people we evict from any properties are for nonpayment of rent or illegal activities.”

Howes said seven other tenants have left the building for other reasons.

What Do the Tenants and their Representatives Say?

At a press conference called by Pivot Legal Society on Thursday, anti-poverty activist Wendy Pederson blinked back tears and accused Living Balance owner Steven Lippman of “harassment and intimidation.”

Pivot housing lawyer DJ Larkin said: “What is happening to the residents of the York Rooms is a violation of human rights.”

Larkin added: “It is a crisis and something needs to be done now.”

To discuss this and other Vancouver landlord and tenant issues go to the BC landlord forum.

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal Orders Landlord – Pay $15,000 To Your Tenant!

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

January 12th, 2013

bc human rights tribunal landlords

Feelings, Dignity, Self-Respect For a Tenant Who Wanted a Ramp, B.C. Human Right Tribunal Orders the Landlord to Pay Up

According to the Vancouver Sun, a landlord has been ordered to pay over $15,000 to a tenant who says she was discriminated against.

The tenant is 68 year old Joyce Stewart.

Stewart first began renting her Campbell River apartment in 1999. She suffers from club foot and a medical condition called osteoporosis. In the past few years she’s required the use of a walker for mobility.

She told the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal she requested asked the owner of her rental building, Sartoras Enterprises, to build a ramp to assist her in getting around. She said there were 5 steps made out of concrete at the rental property’s entrance and it can become a huge challenge for her to go up and down the steps.

Because the building only had these 5 steps and no ramp, her ability to leave the apartment became limited and she had to prepare days before to get both physically and mentally ready to go up and down the steps.

The B.C. Landlord Refused

Sartoras Enterprises refused her request to build a ramp for her. This refusal led Stewart to file at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

It was ruled by Marlene Tyshynski (a Tribunal member) that the landlord pay $15,000 to tenant Stewart for:

“…injury to her dignity, feelings and self-respect.”

The landlord was also ordered to:

*  Build a ramp for Stewart

*  Pay $500 extra because the company didn’t send in documents needed for the case.

Could a Small Landlord Afford to Pay Such a Huge Sum of Money?

The 2013 rent increase for B.C. is only 3.8%.

Many landlords aren’t even going to increase the rent out of fear of losing their current tenants.

Now we have tribunals ordering landlords to build ramps. What’s next for landlords?

Will this ruling and huge fine lead investors to avoid rental properties in B.C.? Will it lead landlords to try to avoid renting to elderly people?

B.C. Landlords Are Facing Huge Challenges in 2013. Make Sure You Are Aware of What’s Happening and Find Great Tenants.

To Discuss this with other B.C. landlords and landlords across Canada go to the B.C. Landlords Forum.


feng shui

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

October 1st, 2012

For a realtor trying to survive the currently sluggish market, there might be no sight as disheartening as that of the unyielding feng shui master who shows up with the buyer to assess the property.

The master, is, after all, probably going to get the last word.

The ancient Chinese practice of feng shui, which is, roughly, about creating a harmonious environment, can have a major impact on a sale in the Lower Mainland. Feng shui master Johnson Li knows all about that, having shot down many a potential purchase.

Mr. Li has been a feng shui master since arriving in Vancouver 20 years ago. He divides his time between the Lower Mainland, Hong Kong, China, and places like Victoria and Seattle, where he’s called upon to assess homes for occupants or would-be buyers.

Feng shui got plenty of media attention in the late 1980s, when a wave of Taiwanese buyers was purchasing and renovating properties based on the system. Today, it’s still alive and well and has spread beyond the Chinese demographic, with devotees from other cultures opting to let feng shui guide their choices.

Mr. Li acknowledges that he is one of the most expensive feng shui masters in Vancouver, but his rate is even higher when he works in China. Here, he charges $8,800 to assess commercial properties; $3,800 to assess houses, and $2,800 to assess apartments. His fee is not to assess only one property for a client, but rather, as many properties as necessary until he finds one with good feng shui. He says that he once rejected more than 100 listings until he settled upon an appropriate house, which must have been an interesting situation for the buyer’s realtor.

The practice is not limited to Chinese buyers, says Mr. Li. He has clients who are Caucasian and East Indian. In Surrey, a Polish family requested his help when they couldn’t sell their house after six months without action. After his recommended changes to the house, he says they sold two months later.

Patricia Coleman is a feng shui practitioner who caters mostly to a non-Chinese demographic in Vancouver. She has guided homebuyers and has “feng shui’d” houses to make them easier to sell.

“I have a lot of western clients,” she says. “It’s not just about trying to sell a house, but making the right decision. It’s a huge purchase. You need to ask, ‘Is it the right one?’

“Every culture has an understanding of placement and energy.”

Faustina Kwok, who lives in Richmond with her naturopath husband Martin, says their new house was built according to feng shui principles that she believes will increase its value. They also “feng shui’d” her husband’s clinic. However, when it came to the house, she wasn’t willing to forgo a good floor plan and flow for feng shui, Ms. Kwok says. She’d been inside “feng shui’d” houses that felt odd because the flow was off. But she was willing to move the driveway, and add a partial wall so that the master bedroom wasn’t in direct view of the front door.

“We just did the big modifications, like where the toilet shouldn’t be,” she says. “You don’t want to flush your fortune away. At least I take comfort knowing my toilet is not in the wrong place,” she says, laughing.

Although growing in popularity, it’s still a largely misunderstood practice, says Mr. Li. Some people think that the popularity of an address that includes the number eight is feng shui, but that’s more about superstition. Feng shui grew out of something far more practical, he explains.

“It is the art of looking at places that are safe or not, gauging whether they are a habitable place,” he says, seated in his Kingsway office, surrounded by his extensive library, a translator at his side. “Feng shui means the study of surroundings.”

Mr. Li has stopped the sale of many houses, and he’s witnessed attempts at feng shui by builders who were shrewdly, or naively, anxious to appease the Chinese market. Mr. Li explained how he once kiboshed the sale of a newly built home in West Vancouver. The builder had hired another feng shui expert to help design the house, which included a giant vertical aquarium as well as an indoor Koi fishpond. Mr. Li took one look at the aquarium and pond and gave a thumbs-down on the pricey property. His clients took his advice and walked. The builder was so furious, he says, that they asked him to put his reasons in writing.

As he poured another round of green tea, he explained that it’s a basic feng shui principle that you don’t want water above your head. As well, a Koi pond inside a house is not a good thing, he added.

When asked to explain, Mr. Li chuckled and said, “Because it will smell like fish.”

As for the feng shui practitioner who’d allowed such missteps, he explained that unfortunately, because so many consumers want instant and easy answers, there are a lot of unscrupulous practitioners who don’t know what they are doing. He doesn’t like doing assessments for developers and realtors because “they use him to make money.”

He recalls a realtor slipping him a red envelope as he was doing his assessment. The envelope was stuffed with a substantial amount of money, which he later turned over to his clients.

Emily Lo says she trusts Mr. Li for all her real estate purchases, even if it irritates the realtors, who often try to persuade her to use Mr. Li’s report as one of the subjects to sale. However, she’d prefer to get his opinion upfront, after the initial walk-through.

“He has the power of veto, and if you are paying that amount of money, you are going to trust what he says.”

Gastown realtor Ian Watt says the issue of feng shui comes up about once a month.

“A lot of my Chinese clients are really big into that,” he says. “It’s amazing, because it does affect real estate for a certain demographic. Everybody over 50 cares for sure.”

He has a client with a condo on Pacific Boulevard currently on the market, and the client refuses to let him close the window during showings.

“It’s on Pacific Boulevard, which is very noisy. The traffic sounds don’t help,” he says. “They want the window open all the time, and it’s something to do with feng shui.”

Anna Chen, who co-owns the unit with fiancé Dan, can explain. Her uncle is a feng shui master who visits from Taiwan, and he told her to keep the window open in order to sell the unit. Ms. Chen, who is 32, said that she was reluctant to believe in feng shui throughout her 20s, but now that she’s older, she’s starting to see its value.

“I think it helps. I’ve seen it help. So that’s why I asked my uncle to help me to sell the place, and also to help us buy the next place. Now, when we go to a new condo listing, sometimes I ask him to come with me. He told me the direction of the entrance and everything will affect health and fortune, how much you can make, or are you going to lose.”

Tenants and landlords speak out about suites

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

July 15th, 2012


Nested comfortably in a Green Timbers home containing multiple suites, she shuddered when the city announced it was moving to shut down the units.

With an estimated 4,000 homes containing multiple suites in the city, Bonnie Burnside believes there would be a mass displacement of renters, most with very few options of where to go.

Burnside lives in one of those homes and says she’s getting a great deal from friends. When word of a crackdown spread, she was not so much worried about herself, but about others who would be evicted.

Burnside thinks about the welfare of two of her sisters and a nephew, who live in homes with multiple suites.

“I was concerned,” Burnside said. “But I understand completely the fact that there are issues with these multiple suites.”

She acknowledges there may be a lack of inspection standards for homes with more than one extra dwelling unit. In fact, city documents indicate there are no provincial guidelines for dwellings with more than one suite.

However Burnside said her sisters and nephew are in positions where they couldn’t afford to live elsewhere.

When those family members are displaced, it’s likely other family members will pick up the slack, in many instances housing them until they can find new accommodation.

“It affects more than just the moms with the kids,” Burnside said. “It affects other people too. It affects the seniors who are living in (suites) who can’t afford anything else. People do need a place to live.”

One of those people is Burnside’s sister Wendy Patterson.

Patterson has lived in a Newton home for three years. The one-bedroom was new when she moved in, and her $550-per-month rent includes Hydro.

She was distressed when she heard the city is looking at closing down multiple suites.

“I’m not impressed at all,” Patterson said. “If they end up shutting all of these down, I’m going to – within my budget – have no place that I can afford to go.”

It would mean moving out of the Lower Mainland, she said. And without a car, that means it’s unlikely she’d be able to work at Softball City.

If Surrey continues its push to close multiple suites, there’s going to be some heartache, Patterson said.

“All these people who are doing what they can, making ends meet and working, are finding a hard time finding a place to live,” Patterson said. “You can’t even afford a one-bedroom apartment nowadays.”

“Basement suites are within those people’s budgets.”

Sarah Sharma owns three properties, one of which has multiple suites. She sees it as providing affordable housing for those on lower incomes.

“There’s a need for that. A lot of people can’t afford expensive housing,” Sharma said. “The facility is there, and I think it is a great thing to share the living arrangement like that.”

Sharma has a property in southwest Panorama with two rental units – a coach house and a secondary suite.

The coach house is legal she said, adding the city began charging her an extra fee for the secondary suite last year.

“The city knows it, and the city has written a letter saying I know you have a kitchen there, and I said ‘yeah, we do,'” Sharma said.

Because of that, she thought both were legal. However, Surrey’s secondary suite bylaw prohibits a suite when a coach house is rented.

Sharma, a realtor, also owns another property in Newton and one in Mission, neither of which has a suite.

She says the neighbours have no problem with her having the two rental units.

“As long as there’s enough parking available,” Sharma said. “Sometimes parking is a mess here, but we manage.”

She said the suites are important to some, because banks will want to know there is enough income coming in before approving a mortgage.

“It’s a great thing I think,” she says.

Some people have already been displaced as the city begins to enforce its bylaw.

Brittany Willmott, a 25-year-old care aide, just moved out of a North Surrey home with multiple suites and saw bylaw officials come in and shut some of them down.

She was allowed to stay in one of the remaining suites, but she soon moved out to another home with multiple suites in Panorama Ridge.

She pays $600 for what she describes as a clean and large one-bedroom suite.

“There’s a lot of one-bedrooms, but not a lot of places that will take pets,” Willmott said, adding she wouldn’t think of parting with her seven-year-old cat, Moe.

The monthly rent is a bit above her comfort level financially, so she’s looking for a second job.

She said she’s hoping not to see the same type of bylaw crackdown at her new place, because at her price range, and with a pet, she’s running out of options.

“I can’t afford an apartment, and a lot of apartments don’t take pets – I would literally be living in my truck,” Willmott said.

City officials are currently exploring the possibility of allowing multiple suites in some zones in Surrey.



12 Maple Ridge tenants evicted due to safety concerns

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

December 1st, 2011

Twelve people in Hammond had to find a new home in a hurry with winter and nightfall approaching, after the Maple Ridge Fire Department evacuated the building they lived in Friday because of safety concerns.

The fire department ordered the emptying of the four-suite, 80-year-old building at 11293 – 113th Ave., after finding electrical meters had been removed and power bypasses hooked up.

“The issue for us was the building was without safe electrical connection. The Hydro has been disconnected from the building based on unsafe installation,” fire chief Dane Spence said Tuesday.

“The thing that made it immediate was the unsafe electrical and the fire alarm system.”

He said there was some allegations that some people didn’t have the right to be there, but Spence said his focus was on the safety of the building and the people residing there.

“In this case, I could not make it safe. It was not a safe situation.”

He sympathized with the tenants, but said it was his responsibility to ensure safety.

The owner of the building will have to bring the building up to code before people can re-occupy it.

Reg Hudon, former caretaker of the building, said the fire department was in too much of a hurry, given that B.C. Hydro crews were on their way to re-install the meters and complete electrical repairs.

“The [fire] chief came over to condemn the building. A half-hour later B.C. Hydro were coming to put back the meters.”

Some of the tenants that were booted out, took out their anger on the building and did further damage “just because they didn’t want to move.

“They’re all gone. I don’t know where they are,” he added.

“Some were afraid to offend the authorities, so they just took off right away.”

Kerry Fortney was one who had to leave. She and her boyfriend and her dog had been living there since September, paying $700 rent, utilities included. She had two hours to collect her belongings and get out.

“I liked living there. I didn’t think it was too bad.”

The trio have had to go to a friend’s house while they look for another place. But she’s already down $150 that she had to pay to put her belongings in storage.

Hudon said there were some issues with drugs at the building, but that it was in good condition.

“It may be old, he said, but “it’s a nice, cosy, warm building.”

Residents in two of the four suites, which rent for $700 a month for a one bedroom suite, were on income assistance.

A complicated domestic legal battle also surrounds the building.

Hudon is fighting a Residential Tenancy Branch order from June, evicting him from the caretaker suite. A judicial review of that takes place Dec. 16. However, on Oct. 24, he received a separate order giving him exclusive occupancy of the suite until the whole issue of the building’s ownership has been settled.

In January, he was terminated as the caretaker, but his lawyer disputes that and says he was a common law husband of the building’s owner. In September, a court order told him not to interfere with the tenants.

Hudon also made a claim on the ownership of the building. That’s yet to be set for trial.

But that’s not the issue, he says.

“The issue is these people have no place to go.”

“Don’t want to hurt anybody, but we want to let them know everybody has a right to a roof over their head, especially around Christmas and winter.”