93 tenants of DTES building file complaint against landlord
WATCH: Residents of the DTES’s West Hotel launch legal action over deplorable living conditions. Nadia Stewart has their story.
Nearly 100 tenants from a Downtown Eastside building say they’ve filed one of the largest complaints against a Vancouver landlord in the province’s history.
On Thursday, 93 tenants of the West Hotel, a Single Room Occupancy building on Carrall Street, took legal action against the building’s landlord and property management company. The tenants have filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancy Board, citing violations of the Residential Tenancy Act. Among their complaints:
• 108 days of complete loss of elevator service
• 73 days of removal of front desk staff security
• 49 consecutive days without hot water
“The situation is so bad they have no choice but to go and charge the landlord for compensation for loss of services,” said Wendy Pedersen, Coordinator of the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative, the advocacy group assisting the tenants in filing the claim.
A number of the building’s residents say the conditions inside have been deteriorating for years.
“Hot water? My taps when I moved in here it had perfect pressure. Now, there’s hardly any pressure at all,” said Don Deuyour, a tenant of 13 years. He also said security inside is poor, as intruders often climb up the fire escape and into units – including his own.
They also believe that a lack of front desk staff was a factor in double homicide at the building in March.
Another tenant, Martin Mellado, said the persistent elevator breakdowns means people like him who are confined to a wheelchair can’t get back upstairs to their unit.
“Occasionally, when the elevator did break down after Community Builders took it over, I’ve been sleeping in my chair in the bar here in the lobby,” said Mellado.
Residents are seeking a total of $70,000 in compensation for the violations of the Tenancy Act and the inconvenience it’s caused them.
A spokesperson with the Ministry Responsible for Housing says the size of the complaint is significant.
“SRO private owners have an obligation, as all landlords have under the Residential Tenancy Act to ensure their buildings meet health and safety standards,” wrote Darren Harbord in an email to Global News.
“While we cannot say if this is the largest number of applications for disputes for one location, it certainly is a significant number.”
Property Managers say problems pre-date them
The tenants served both the landlord and the property management organization, Community Builders, notice today. Julie Roberts, the organization’s president, said many of the tenants concerns are being or have already been addressed.
“There’s never been a period time where there was no hot water in the building,” said Roberts, adding that 40 rooms have been renovated, plumbing and elevator breakdowns addressed on an ongoing basis.
Roberts said Community Builders has only been managing the building since last December, but the problems tenants are flagging are much older than that.
“I believe that their requests are for compensation for past issues that have taken place and they’ll be in talks for compensation with the owners and we’ll be supporting that process,” she said.
The hearing is set for October 5.