Residents of 15156 Victoria Ave. say they’re at risk of losing their affordable housing, from left, Elizabeth Soper, Jack, Jane, Dan, Anthony. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Residents of 15156 Victoria Ave. say they’re at risk of losing their affordable housing, from left, Elizabeth Soper, Jack, Jane, Dan, Anthony. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock tenants, landlord to go to RTB hearing over ‘renoviction’

Low-income tenants dispute claim they must relocate for work to be completed

A group of low-income White Rock residents, some of whom are seniors, are concerned they’ll lose their affordable housing as a result of “renoviction.”

The residents of 15156 Victoria Ave. contacted Peace Arch News this week and said they each received an eviction notice indicating that they have until June 30 to leave the property.

The tenants live in a 90-year-old house, which was converted into six bachelor suites a number of years ago.

Elizabeth Soper, who has lived on the property for nine years and pays $743 per month, said many of the tenants are on fixed incomes, and units that come at a similar cost are nonexistent.

She contends that tenants should be allowed to stay on the property while renovation work takes place. The renovation, she said, involves seismic work and construction of a retaining wall.

“There’s no reason for us to have to leave the building,” Soper said.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords can end tenancy for renovation if the landlord has permits and approvals prior to giving notice; the landlord must intend, “in good faith,” to renovate or repair the rental unit; and the renovations or repairs must be so extensive that they require the rental unit to be vacant.

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Soper said tenants were offered a compensation package from the landlord that includes two month’s rent – one more than is legally required – and $250 for moving expenses. The package is contingent on the renters moving out by the end of April. Instead, the tenants contacted the Residential Tenancy Branch to pitch their case. They will be heard in July.

“The work that needs to be done here with the retaining wall and seismic work, that can all probably be done in a month,” Soper said. “He’s coming into suites and revamping so he can jack up rents.”

The owner of the property, Peter Cindric, said the renovation work is somewhat more extensive, and includes electrical, plumbing, seismic upgrades to the south-facing wall, and replacement of the windows.

He said the upgrades are “very overdue” and that, while he doesn’t feel good about evicting his tenants, “I have no choice. I have to do this.”

He said he’s aware of his tenants’ concerns, but that it would be “impossible” to do the work without evicting them.

“All of a sudden the tenants became the experts in construction,” Cindric said.

In addition, he said, he cannot get insurance coverage for construction unless the tenants are out.

“It’s so much trouble that I’m going through now… I’m thinking, God forbid, something happens to the building. The wiring is so old. If the building burns down or if somebody gets hurt, I’m going to be kicking myself for years to come. When I’m trying to improve the building and make it livable, I’m getting into trouble.”

Told of the electrical issue, Soper said it was the first time she heard any concern about the wiring.

“This electrical… this is all new. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of our suites electrically, I can guarantee that.”

The tenants, who are financially limited, said they’re searching for pro bono legal advice as they prepare for their RTB hearings, which begin the first week of July. The tenants are also seeking an engineer to give a second opinion on whether they need to be evicted for the work to commence. The tenants can be contacted at 604-531-1074 or 604-700-7372.

Contacted this week, the City of White Rock said it’s committed to supporting a supply of housing that residents can afford. The city reached out to Cindric to inquire about the possibility of allowing the tenants to stay on site during the renovations.

The city has no role in the RTB dispute resolution process unless it is asked to provide information.

Earlier this year, Attorney General David Eby introduced the Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act, or Bill 7.

The amendment makes it so landlords will have to apply directly to the RTB before issuing eviction notices for renovations or redevelopment.

The law, which is to be implemented July 1, was designed to focus on “bad actor” landlords who use renovictions as a way to circumvent rent controls, Eby said.

– With files from Tom Fletcher

affordable housingrental marketWhite Rock