Tenants in an East Vancouver apartment building are raising concerns about renovations that they say left some evicted or faced with higher rents.
At a press conference in front of 1850 Adanac Street today, residents and representatives of the Vancouver Renters' Union also described what they allege was the unsafe removal of asbestos in the building.
“We have serious concerns about our health, having been exposed to asbestos,” said tenant Maureen Bourke.
“It’s been thrown on the lawns, it’s been put in our dumpsters…it’s been left to sit there, in some cases for a month at a time, without it being cleaned up,” she alleged.
Some tenants said they received eviction notices, or were given the option of moving into renovated suites that were $200 to $300 more expensive.
Jesse Waldman said these kinds of increases make “a big difference” for many people in the building.
“To have laminate floors and a dishwasher when you live by yourself, it’s not worth $300, and I think that is a breaking point for a lot of people,” he said. “I couldn’t afford $300 more, even $200.”
According to Bourke, while many tenants have been living in the area for decades, some are thinking of leaving the city or province entirely in search of housing.
“If we have to leave, there is nowhere to go,” she said. “This is affordable housing…right now we have 25 roughly suites that are vacant, because people have left either on their own volition or they were evicted,” she said.
Vancouver-Hastings MLA Shane Simpson, who also attended the press conference today, said he sent a letter in April to Lorenzo Aquilini, who is listed as a director for building owner Ashurwin Holdings Ltd, after tenants approached him with their concerns about renovations in the building. He later contacted WorkSafe BC, which issued a stop work order.
“It’s my view that landlords, like tenants, all have rights under the law, but people cannot do this kind of work without proper permits,” said Simpson. “They cannot be removing asbestos in a way that is hazardous to the health of the workers and to the tenants, and they simply cannot deal with tenants in terms of evictions or extraordinary rent increases without following the law that we have in British Columbia, and in this case it appears that the landlord has in fact done those things.”
Donna Freeman of WorkSafe BC confirmed that an order was issued to stop all demolition work. Renovations have now resumed in some areas, but work will not resume in suites that still require assessment, she said.
Aquilini could not be reached for an interview by the Straight’s deadline. A staff member at property management company Royal Providence Management Inc. said Ashurwin Holdings will be issuing a statement to media.
Dozens of tenants of an asbestos-contaminated East Vancouver apartment building held a rally Tuesday morning to denounce the owner, who they claimed has been carrying out illegal and unsafe “renovictions” and jacking up their rents.
A “renoviction” is the practice of serving a tenant with an eviction notice in order to renovate their suite and thereby increase its rental value without their consent.
Connor Donegan with the Vancouver Renters’ Union said since realtor Lorenzo Aquilini bought 1850 Adanac St. last year tenants have been intimidated and bullied into either leaving the building or agreeing to move into renovated suites renting for $300 to $400 more per month.
“These are rent increases that are 16 to 21 times the legal rate of increase,” Donegan said, referring to limits on rent increases set out under the Residential Tenancy Act.
WorkSafeBCordered the contactors to stop work last week after it was discovered they were renovating without proper permits. Tenants allege they were not following proper safety procedures for dealing with an asbestos-contaminated building.
Vancouver-Hastings MLA and NDP housing critic Shane Simpson wrote to Aquilini on April 13 raising the tenants’ concerns, and said he has heard nothing back.
“It’s my view that landlords, like tenants, all have rights under the law, but people cannot do this kind of work without proper permits,” Simpson said.
“They cannot be removing asbestos in a way that is hazardous to the workers and to the tenants, and they simply cannot deal with tenants in terms of evictions or extraordinary rent increases without following the law that we have in British Columbia, and in this case it appears they have done those things.”
The allegations made at the rally have not been proven in court, but at least two tenants said they are considering legal action.
Multiple attempts to contact Aquilini were unsuccessful. A representative of the building’s management company, Royal Providence Management Inc., said he was planning to release a statement Tuesday afternoon, but was unwilling to provide information on how to obtain it.
A message left with his office was not returned.
This province would be a far better place without criminal scum like these slumlords.
Edited by hockeyville88, 24 May 2012 - 11:43 AM.