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‘We’re human beings’: East Vancouver apartment tenants without heat, hot water for over a week

Some tenants of an East Vancouver rental building are living in the cold for the Christmas week
The boiler has been out for the past week at a Vancouver apartment building, and residents don't know when the problems will be fixed. Paul Johnson has the story.

Tenants living in an East Vancouver apartment building say they haven’t had any heat or hot water since before Christmas.

Residents of 807 East Sixth Ave. told Global News one of the two boilers in the building broke down on Dec. 22, leaving people stuck shivering in their rooms and having to endure freezing-cold showers.

One tenant, Ron Seed, said he and several others have had to resort to using space heaters to keep warm, which has led to blown fuses on a regular basis.

“We’re sucking up the electricity bill too, which [the landlord is] expecting us to pay in full, and our rent in full,” he said. “But they don’t want to work with us when we have no hot water to shower.”

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Seed said he’s resorted to boiling water and mixing it with cold water in his bathtub. Others are showering at friends’ houses.

A few residents have banded together in protest, saying they wouldn’t be paying their rent until the boiler was replaced. Those tenants have been threatened with eviction notices, Seed said.

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“I don’t understand why we would pay the full amount of rent and not have the services that we’re paying for.”

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“Why would I give them $1,400 if I’ve only gotten $900 worth of shelter, right? I may as well leave my door open,” he said.

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Fed up tenants in Vancouver’s Chinatown protest broken elevator

Other residents said they have heard little communication from management or the company about when the boiler might be replaced.

A notice posted on the door around Christmas Day saying the issue was being “dealt with” is the only announcement many have seen.

“I don’t know why it takes so long to fix it,” Dan George said. “Management’s supposed to carry out repairs.”

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Maria Verdicchio, who has lived in the building for two years, said the building has other issues too: one of the two elevators hasn’t been working since October.

“It’s things like this that constantly happen, and it’s ridiculous,” she said.

“Even our balcony, it’s wood and it’s been rotting for two years and it breaks when you stand on it and it had nails sticking out of it. We had to repair it with our own money and our own time. It’s just the way it works here.”

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The on-site building manager, who did not want to be identified, told Global News Sunday that construction on replacing the boiler will start Monday.

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Residents who were then given that information by Global News said it was the first time they had heard it.

The manager would not give a timeline on when construction would be completed and the heat would return.

The building’s owner, Zen Properties, and its founder Giovanni Zen have faced scrutiny from the city in the past for other rental properties it owns.

In 2013, the city directed its legal counsel to seek a court injunction for the Zen-owned 3683 East Hastings St. for multiple violations of the city’s building and fire codes.

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City of Vancouver expropriates ‘slumlord’ hotels for $1 each

According to the administrative report, Zen rented out apartments in the building that did not have working fire alarms, sprinklers or exits and “were being serviced from a temporary electrical connection.”

The city alleged Zen had not gotten proper approvals to start moving tenants into the suites before construction had been completed.

Another Zen-owned property, 2255 Pandora St., has been included in the bedbug registry for Metro Vancouver in the past, along with 1278 Granville St.

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Global News has reached out to Zen Properties for comment.

As he waits for the heat to return to his suite, Seed said he wants the owners to understand who they’re hurting.

“We’re human beings,” he said. “We all need warmth, we all need to wash our bodies and be hygienic, and it’s impossible to do that in a house where I can’t even — cold water doesn’t wash you.”