New precedent for holding landlords of privately-owned SRO hotels accountable to the law
Angela May Kruger
January 28, 2016
“Tenants are afraid if they ask for repairs the Landlords will evict them and they’ll be homeless,” said Jack Gates, tenant of the Regent Hotel. “But when we work together, we can change things in our hotels.”
Rats, mice, cockroaches, and bedbugs are part of daily life for most Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Residential hotel tenants like Jack. Tenants also live without basic services like heat, hot water, electricity, elevator service, water pressure, even, in some cases without locking doors.
Jack, along with a small group of SRO tenants with the newly formed SRO Collaborative, a project of Atira Development Society, have banded together to do something about it and recently won two unprecedented victories at the Lion Hotel at 316 Powell Street and the Sahota-owned Regent Hotel at 160 Hastings Street.
Owners of these hotels have been served written legal orders by the City of Vancouver, giving each landlord 60 days to comply with the city’s Standards of Maintenance By-Law. At The Lion, ‘slumlord millionaire’ Abolghasem Abdollahi has until Jan. 26 to bring heat and hot water to the building. At The Regent, fixing the heat and hot water as well as the repair of a door must take place before Feb. 15. If either landlord does not comply with these conditions, the City of Vancouver can step in and do the repairs, billing the landlord for the work.
Although the Standards of Maintenance By-law has been in place since 1981, the City rarely “takes full responsibility” and bi-passes a landlord to do the repair themselves (only one time in Vancouver history, decades ago). But it looks like it may happen at the Lion Hotel on January 26. The Collaborative will be there to make sure that the repairs are done.
How did all this happen?
The Collaborative helped Regent and Lion tenants record the temperature of the heat and hot water in their rooms, call 311 to complain to city inspectors and also organized Residential Tenancy Branch hearings so they can get compensation for no heat and hot water. They also helped tenants navigate landlord backlash.
“We’re adding these orders at the Regent and Lion to our list of victories in 2015,” said Wendy Pedersen, Community Organizer with the Collaborative. “Along with helping West Hotel tenants organize the largest legal case against a landlord in BC History, we’re really excited about the city taking full responsibility. Tenants already have more confidence to keep up the pressure.”
According to the Collaborative, spirits in these hotels are higher than normal and they expect, with more hard work from tenant leaders, to have more victories in 2016. Mohammad Valayati, Collaborative Organizer working with tenants at the Lion Hotel said “this is just a start. We want to have tenant organizers in all the privately owned SROs. SRO tenants are used to being mistreated and we’re showing them how to win back their tenant rights.”
Mohammad and Jack at Strategy Meeting for Collaborative Tenant Organizers