Vancouver Sun: Kits apartment building’s final tenant in last stand against renoviction
Carol-Ann Lang is not ready to abandon her home of 37 years.
“I’m not moving,” said the 68-year-old Vancouver resident, who was served an eviction notice in February, more than a year after her new landlords first tried to push her out.
Kits apartment building’s final tenant in last stand against renoviction
“As long as we have that COVID emergency, they cannot take possession, and I will at least hold up construction.”
Lang has lived in her small apartment at 1875 Yew St. since 1984. She had planned to stay at the Manoa Yew for the rest of her life.
The property was purchased in September 2018 by 1875 Yew Street Nominee Ltd. for $10.5 million.
Within weeks of the sale, Lang and her neighbours received monetary offers to leave from VS Rentals, a property management company that had taken over operation of the building. The offers escalated hitting a $5,000 “buyout bonus,” three months’ rent and $500 for moving expenses.
Some tenants said they felt pressured by the landlords’ employees to accept the buyouts, rather than stay through renovations or temporarily vacate and return.
Lang refused and stayed put, however, and is the last tenant in the 23-unit building.
She said she has felt harassed and unsafe in her home as the landlord’s workers rip apart the building. But she doesn’t want to abandon her home of 37 years for something far more expensive.
“I love this place, I love this apartment,” she said. “It’s a beautiful old building.”
When Postmedia News contacted VS Rentals in November 2018, a man identifying himself as its vice-president said he planned to let tenants know they could either stay at the Manoa Yew during renovations or return afterwards.
But the eviction notice says Lang must move out for about a year to allow comprehensive renovations including the replacement of windows, drywall, and electrical and plumbing systems.
If Lang is allowed to return after the renovations, she doesn’t expect the landlord to maintain her current rent of about $1,000 a month.
She is disputing the eviction and on June 19 has a hearing before the Residential Tenancy Branch, which rules on landlord-tenant disputes.
Meantime, B.C.’s eviction freeze in response to the coronavirus pandemic prevents the landlord from forcing her out.
Lang has retained lawyer Joey Doyle, who said he is motivated to represent tenants in a “David and Goliath” situation, going through a “renoviction” while ill-equipped to take on their landlords.
Tenants can find themselves in front of the branch up against teams of engineers, inspectors and other contractors hired by landlords to provide reports saying they need to move out, he said.
“The resources available to Carol-Ann versus the resources available to the landlords, there’s a staggering difference,” Doyle said.
The Manoa Yew is listed as one of three “current projects” by Coltric Properties Ltd., a privately owned real estate company.
Records show that Zvonimir Duric, who is a director of Coltric, is listed as one of two directors of 1875 Yew Street Nominee Ltd. Coltric Properties Ltd. declined to be interviewed but stated in an email that the two companies do not share the same set of directors.
If the RTB rules against Lang and allows the eviction, she worries that a similar unit in Kitsilano, in today’s market, could cost double or even triple her current rent.
“$2,000 a month for 20 years is $480,000,” Lang said. “That’s what the fight is about.”
And if VS wins, compensation will be minimal, even after Vancouver council approved amendments last June to its Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy. Under the updated policy, a tenant affected by redevelopment and renovations of market rental housing who has lived in a unit for 30 to 40 years, like Lang, is entitled to compensation worth 18 months’ rent.
But Lang’s landlords began their process when the old policy was in place. It only provides six months’ rent, Doyle said.
Doyle said he hopes B.C.’s new Beneficial Ownership Registry will help renters keep track of “bad actors” in the industry, particularly the ones known for doing serial renovictions.
Government should protect renters by levying fines for renovictions and implementing rent control tied to the unit, which limits the amount rent can be increased after renovations, he said.
“That certainly would have a huge impact in terms of disincentivizing landlords from trying to profit off of kicking people out of their homes,” Doyle said. “Which is really what this is.”
Lang said her battle is for her home, but also for the homes of all renters who find themselves up against renoviction.
“I want this to get enough publicity that the law gets changed,” said Lang. “I want these guys out of business.”