Prince Rupert is home, for the time being, to another casualty of the eviction process and high rents plaguing the city. Local tenants rights advocate Paul Lagace, who offers rental advice and legal representation to renters, through the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre, came home on Sept. 1, to find an eviction notice taped to his door.
The reason provided is a common one Lagace said, which many landlords are using to circumvent new tightened laws around renoviction. Under the new laws enacted on July 1, property owners must provide proof of renovations such as building and construction permits to then receive Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) permission prior to issuing an eviction notice to a tenant.
Lagace said to circumvent the process some landlords are instead telling tenants the rental unit is required for an immediate family member. The notice, for this reason, provides the current tenant 60 days to vacate. He said he was dealing with two identical clients issues just the day before receiving his own eviction notice with the same reason stated.
“This is the most common notice issued now that renovictions have been curbed a bit with the new process,” he said referring to the RTB 32 – Two Month Notice to End Tenancy.
Lagace told The Northern View, the mixed-use building in which his apartment is located above a downtown commercial space, has changed hands within the past few weeks. He spoke to the new owner just last week and received no indication of what was to come.
Anoop Bhatti, landlord of the property told The Northern View on Sept. 3, that as the owner of the property he should be able to use it as he wants.
“All I know is, this is my property. We spent our lifetime earnings on it … It’s my property, I want my family to move in here. I’m not sure what the problem is. If you own a property, you cannot move into your property or whatnot – why is that so hard?
“We going to comment on all these things after this court case is done. First, we’re going to go to RTB, then we’re going to go through the rest of the court system, and then we will comment on it. Okay, well, for now, this is all I can say.”
Despite the new landlord knowing what he does for a living, Lagace said it does not make him immune to the same predicaments his clients face on a daily basis.
However, Lagace is extremely worried. He said he knows firsthand the less than one per cent vacancy rate and combined with the astronomical rental costs in the area, he just cannot afford the city’s market rent on his non-profit salary.
“This is weird getting personal about me, but the simple thing is I live by myself. I have to pay all my bills. I support a daughter. I have a good job. My rent is affordable right now,” he said. “But here’s the catch – to get another unit where my daughter can come, my bills will be a minimum of $1,000 to $1,300 more a month.”
“Even if I had that money – which I don’t, there is nothing available to move to. I see this every day. There is nothing available.”
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue as an advocate in Prince Rupert. I am not saying that for dramatic effect. I’m just speaking the honest truth. If I have to pay another $1,200 a month, I just can not do it. I will have to leave the community.”
Lagace said he has been vocal for more than a year expressing his concerns that while low-income and vulnerable citizens are rightly prioritized there are others who cannot afford the city. While there are subsidized and affordable housing projects being proposed, as well as high-cost rentals being built, there is nothing in the community for others.
“What I’ve been saying is, it’s the middle-income, single people who can not afford to live in Prince Rupert,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me … but this is the seriousness of the situation … unless you have a double income, how do you move forward.”
“I see every day with my clients, how completely deflated, confused and disorientated they are when they receive an eviction notice. That’s how I am feeling. My home is my security, I have this so I can do what I do. I love it in Prince Rupert. The rug literally has been pulled out from under me.”
Lagace said if he can’t fight the situation, no one can, but there are no guarantees. If he fights it and loses the eviction order gives just two days to vacate the premises. He will be left with nowhere to go. He said this is the reality of what people in B.C. and the North West face every day.
“Nobody is safe. It can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. Nobody is exempt from this. It’s unnerving,” Lagace said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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