Opinion: Brutal housing market leaves renters at the mercy of landlords

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tanner-bokorBy Tanner Bokor

Vancouver’s brutal housing market may be the reason some renters aren’t coming forward with valid complaints about their landlords.

People I have spoken with about their renting woes describe non-returned damage deposits for a single paint chip being out of place, landlords who impose a strict occupancy rule and even the occasional limitations on cooking heavily spiced food.

The renters also said they were afraid of the repercussions of reporting or complaining about these issues.

They said they were afraid that they may not get the all-important positive reference from their landlords needed to secure their next rental.

Others are afraid that if they complain, they will be evicted, and search the rental market all over again, something no one in their right mind wants to do.

Rather than gripe about maintenance issues or unannounced unit inspections, things that are covered under the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act and are every renter’s right, they are keeping quiet and not rocking the boat.

Looking at the stats surrounding Vancouver’s rental market may be one of the reasons.

Rental prices are on the rise according to Tom Davidoff, an economist at UBC. Davidoff is tracking data that suggests the average price of renting a two-bedroom apartment is expected to rise by 20 per cent by early 2017 from an already astronomical $1,643.

Vancouver’s low occupancy rate is also intimidating to renters. The Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation’s October 2015 assessment of Vancouver’s rate shows it to be a miniscule 0.6 per cent, one of the lowest in Canada. Data suggests that the rate will fall even further in the coming years.

With all the market uncertainty facing Vancouver renters, it is tempting to gloss over or not report legitimate complaints. If you feel unsafe in your apartment, or are being unfairly or illegally treated by your landlords, just speak up.

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