‘Squalor’: Family of 8 says landlord won’t fix dilapidated rental in Coquitlam, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Syrian refugees in B.C. deplore ‘inhuman’ rental home'
Syrian refugees in B.C. deplore ‘inhuman’ rental home
A family who fled the war in Syria says the stench in their rental home in Coquitlam sometimes takes their breath away. They've tried to get the landlord to make repairs, but say he's been unresponsive. Emad Agahi reports – Mar 27, 2023

A Coquitlam, B.C. family is speaking out after suffering many months in a dilapidated rental home they say their landlord refuses to fix.

Yaser Hamdo, his wife and six children have lived at the Edgar Avenue home for about three years, paying roughly $2,300 per month. In that time, Hamdo said he has raised repair issues with the landlord multiple times, to no avail.

“Dangerous,” he told Global News, pointing to mold on the ceiling above one of his children’s bunk beds.

Two of several holes in the floor of Yaser Hamdo’s Edgar Avenue home in Coquitlam, B.C. are seen on Mon. March 27, 2023. Nic Amaya/Global News
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The landlord contacted Global News on Tuesday to explain he wishes the matter was resolved privately. He claimed to have documentation showing it is the tenants who are causing much of the damage — and that he has done everything he can as an owner of the property.

The landlord added he was told only five people would be living at the house as opposed to the eight that currently reside there. He also said he would seek resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch.

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B.C. boosts funding for Residential Tenancy Branch to resolve renter, landlord disputes

The City of Coquitlam said it had no jurisdiction over landlord-tenant disputes, and did not provide further comment on Monday.

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The ailing property on Edgar Avenue has mold in multiple places, damp basement flooring, warped ceiling tiles at risk of caving in, broken floor tiles in the kitchen, gaping holes in the balcony floor, and more.

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Hamdo said his youngest has already tripped and injured himself on the kitchen floor tiles and he’s worried one will fall through the balcony floor next, if they are not careful.

“It’s unhuman actually to put somebody in this type of squalor,” said Saad Alexan, a friend who is advocating for Hamdo and translating the interview for him.

Hamdo and his family moved to B.C. five years ago as refugees from Syria. Without good English, Alexan said advocating for himself and his family has been difficult.

“He is taking a really very courageous step by stepping forward trying to improve his life and his family’s life,” said Alexan. “It’s becoming unlivable, essentially appalling conditions.”

A development application sign is posted on the Edgar Avenue property lawn.

Speaking through Alexan, Hamdo said he has tried to find other accommodations, but with a small budget and six children, the task has been “next to impossible.”

According to B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act, landlords must maintain residential property “in a state of decoration and repair that complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law.”

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Tenants are not required to make repairs themselves for reasonable wear and tear, and landlords are required to provide tenants with contact information for the person responsible for emergency repairs.

“I empathize with this family and the difficulties they are having with their landlord. This is certainly not the experience we would want them to have upon their arrival to British Columbia,” said Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon in an emailed statement.

“There are remedies available through the Residential Tenancy Branch and we’re continuing to add resources to the branch to strengthen its ability to respond quickly in cases like this. People deserve safe, and properly maintained accommodation.”

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Outpouring of support for evicted and dying Nanaimo woman

Tenants who need repairs should request them in writing, clearly explaining the problem, and keep a copy of the document, according to the Housing Ministry. If a landlord doesn’t fix the problem in a reasonable timeframe, the tenant can apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch, requesting for the repairs to be made, money to cover the inconvenience or both.

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The B.C. government said it is committing up to $15.6 million over the next three years to improve services and reduce delays at the Residential Tenancy Branch, hiring up to 50 new staff, and doubling the size of the compliance and enforcement unit.

In a Tuesday update, the City of Coquitlam told Global News it plans to inspect the property.

“Given the potential public safety issues, the City’s Building Division will be contacting the property owner to schedule a visit by a Building Official to ensure the property is safe and is meeting the requirements of the BC Building Code,” wrote director of development services Andrew Merrill.

On Wednesday, the landlord shared screenshots of text messages with Global News that support his claims the tenants caused some damage, he responded diligently to concerns he was made aware of, and promptly made repairs.

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