It can be hard to prioritize understanding the Residential Tenancy Act when you’ve got mountains of readings and assignments to do. Especially as a student, chances are that you’ve moved out for the first time and are already drowning in scary adult responsibilities. However, no matter who you are, where you live or how much rent you pay, you should never be complicit in letting these violations slide.
I spent the last year living in a Kitsilano apartment without heating. As a busy student, I didn’t have time to call my landlord every single day and ask for an update on the heating situation. Supposedly the central heating in my older building “should be reaching my unit,” however the many repairmen I got him to send to investigate the situation would beg to differ. The landlord’s son even did a quick sweep of my house to “help me find my thermostat” that ended in the conclusion that it just must not be there. When my mother visited me while I was sick in the fall, she ended up setting off the fire alarm by turning on the oven to heat the unit because it was too cold for her. She called my landlord to complain and he arrived that same day with an interim space heater. If she hadn’t been the one to call, I doubt I would have even gotten a space heater — which only kept my unit at a brisk maximum of 18 degrees and racked up $300 utilities bills. What’s it about being a twenty-something that makes it acceptable to be walked all over?
Fast forward to the present, my lease is almost up and I’ve finally had a bit of time to devote to getting this nonsense sorted once and for all. Logically, I could have found another place to live and just given up on trying to deal with the landlord. However, I love my location and aside from the heating, everything else about the place is perfect. So I’ve spent every minute I haven’t been working or studying reading up on BC Tenancy Law and different legal routes I could pursue to get my landlord to take me seriously. After countless inspections, phone calls, threats of legal action, stern emails and sticking to my guns, I’ve finally gotten my landlord to agree to install electric heating in my apartment.
I managed it by myself, and for that, I am immensely proud.
Shitty landlords are not a problem exclusive to Vancouver. However, there’s a strong chance that you will be vulnerable to them as a young person struggling to find affordable housing in this city. With the average price of a one bedroom apartment in Vancouver now reaching a whopping $2090, it’s not at all surprising that students will subject themselves to less than ideal living situations in order to find something “affordable.” With limited options, the idea of making a fuss about repairs or issues with your rental — whether they be minor or major — can be a daunting prospect. What happens if they refuse? Can I even find another place to live? When will enough be enough?
It’s understandably difficult to assert your rights and negotiate with the people who own the literal roof over your head! However, the satisfaction of making things right is immeasurable. There are so many resources there for people who are trying to learn more about tenancy rights. If citing a few sections of the Residential Tenancy Act is enough to get your landlord to take you seriously, then it’s by all means worth the Google.
Julia Burnham is a third-year political science and Canadian studies student and a senior news writer at The Ubyssey.