Transparency is such an important quality and nothing is as vital when developers move existing established rental tenants out of buildings that they are refurbishing or redeveloping. The language of the Residential Tenancy Regulation indicates that
“The landlord may end the tenancy only for the reasons and only in the manner set out in the Residential Tenancy Act and the landlord must use the approved notice to end a tenancy form available from the Residential Tenancy office. The landlord and tenant may mutually agree in writing to end this tenancy agreement at any time.”
As Jen St. Den writes in BCTV News when Reliance Properties moved the tenants out of the twelve unit rental building at 1188 Bidwell Street and redeveloped a 20 storey 108 unit apartment building on the site, those existing tenants that wanted to stay thought they could return to that building at their old agreed upon rents and signed an agreement to vacate the old building. Their assumption was that after a two year time period that had been agreed to by the developer and the City, that rent increases for those returning tenants would only be the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for British Columbia, as stated in the Residential Tenancy Regulation.
Instead Reliance Properties trotted out “new” leases that brought the returning tenants’ rents up to “market rental levels” of $2,350 a month for a one bedroom, and then offered those returning tenants a “rebate” to their old pre-development rent for two years. After that, the rent mushroomed up to the “new” rent, plus the percentage annual increase in the CPI.
You can take a look at the agreement entered into between Reliance Properties and the City of Vancouver regarding the return of the existing tenants to the newly developed 1188 Bidwell that resulted in this ambiguity. This was approved by the Development Permit Board. It states:
“That returning Eligible Tenants will be entitled to rent with a discount of 20% off starting rents. That discounted Starting Rents are applicable only to Eligible Tenants who exercise their right of first refusal and occupy a unit in the new development.”
Now there is a case of who said what, and exactly what a “starting rent” would be. There is finger pointing from the City to the developer over the lack of clarity over correct lease execution,where it appears that the City’s intent was to allow the few returning tenants back in the building at their “old” rents, subject to annual adjustment.
In the end, it is the tenant who is left holding the bag, without enough disposable income to continue living in the building. Those tenants feel bamboozled, and Reliance Properties whose website states “The company focuses on developing long-term tenant relationships and today, many Reliance tenants have been with the firm for over thirty years” has developed a horrifying precedent. Clearly the City will need to spell out exact terms in future redevelopments.
There’s still time for Reliance to do the right thing and give this small handful of tenants the understood rent that they and the City believed was negotiated.
In the interim take a look at this YouTube video by a returning tenant titled “20 Year Tenancy Rewarded with a $1,100 increase”. You can also follow this link for a video on the Reliance Properties website that describes their work and their philosophy.
Let’s hope there is a resolution between this Vancouver development company and the few returning Bidwell Street tenants.
Images: Vancouverrealestatepodcast.com, BuzzBuzzhome, westendcommons