Tenants facing displacement from B.C. apartment say ‘renoviction’ protections not working

Click to play video: 'Esquimalt residents facing renoviction, left with few options'
Esquimalt residents facing renoviction, left with few options
Residents of an Esquimalt low-income apartment building say new B.C. renoviction laws have done little to help them. They've been offered money to move out but - as Kylie Stanton reports - their options to find an another affordable place to live are limited – Apr 30, 2024

A group of tenants being displaced from an affordable rental apartment building outside of Victoria say they’re being renovicted and are getting little help from new B.C. laws meant to protect against the practice.

Residents of the 30 units in the Sturdee apartments in Esquimalt have been ordered to move out by September so the building’s new owner can do renovations and repairs.

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The property was purchased by Sturdee Investments, a company run by developer Andrew Rebeyka, in August 2023.

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About half of them have accepted a $5,000 buyout from the landlord that also ends their right to contest the evictions.

“We need buildings like this, affordable,” said Ilene Koculyn, a tenant of 13 years who currently pays about $830 a month and is on a pension.

“Affordable is not $2,000 a month for a bachelor, and not $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom. That’s not affordable, that’s ridiculous.”

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Under B.C. legislation updated in 2021, landlords must apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before issuing an eviction order for renovations.

The Sturdee tenants’ matter will be heard on Thursday.

If they lose, tenants will be eligible for just one month of compensation for their displacement, said Douglas King with the Together Against Poverty Society.

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“It’s easy for a landlord to step in and offer more than that before the hearing even happens so that a tenant doesn’t even have the right to challenge the eviction.”

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“It’s unfair. It’s not fair to expect tenants to be in this position where they have to either choose between their rights and challenging an eviction, versus having enough money to relocate if they are not going to be successful.”

Rebeyka declined to comment for this story.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the province’s updated anti-renoviction measures were working.

“Renovictions are dramatically down since the changes we have made,” he said.

“There is a process in place, the landowner, the building owner has to go to the RTA. There is a four-month notice requirement. It appears that may not be the case in this situation, they have a date and we will be watching it closely.”

King said the province needs to further toughen protections so that landlords are required to let tenants return to their units after renovations at their old rents. If a landlord can’t make that work financially, he said the properties should be sold to non-profits that can.

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Tenants protest against eviction and AirBnB suites

He also wants to see legislation toughened so that displaced tenants get up to four months’ rent in compensation.

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“It’s often people on disability, it’s often seniors,” he said.

“When a developer sees a building like this they see an opportunity. What we want them and what we want everyone to see is the actual human cost of renoviction. How difficult it is going to be for everyone here to relocate.”

Koculyn, meanwhile, said she doesn’t know what she will do if tenants are unsuccessful at Thursday’s hearing.

“All I can think of is a couple of friends and go, ‘Hey, you got a couch?” she said.

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