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MLA asked to intervene after residents asked to terminate a tenancy agreement

Building owner says that it is ‘important… that no one feel pressured’
The building owner at 491 9 Avenue in Campbell River is planning on renovating the building, and has offered tenants ‘significant payments’ for accepting a proposal to move out by Jan. 1. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Tenants in a Campbell River apartment are concerned about how an agreement to end their tenancies was handled, and reached out to the local MLA for help.

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk met with 15 of the 20 tenants living in an apartment building at 491 9 avenue in Campbell River on Sept. 12 who dispute an agreement to end their tenancy – some after as many as 30 years.

At the meeting, Babchuk said that tenants were “pretty concerned and a lot of people are fearful.”

Tenants received a sum of cash, and signed mutual agreements to end tenancies. They reached out to Babchuk with concerns about the document, and the method by which they were delivered.

“Some of their concerns were around how they were approached and the documents that they felt they needed to sign,” Babchuk said. “I did hear some very serious allegations today, but I know that in Campbell River we have a very, very, low vacancy rate, and we have an extremely low vacancy rate with affordable housing. We want to make sure that these tenants in this particular building are being treated fairly and are being treated within their rights.”

Jan Frederik Ludvik, a director of 491 9th Avenue Holdings LTD (the company that owns the building) confirmed the payments, saying that “every tenant was approached and that the plans for the building were explained, and that all of the tenants decided to accept a proposal for which they have all received significant payments comparable to what is provided in other municipalities under tenant relocation policies.”

“It was important that something fair be offered, and that no one feel pressured to accept the proposal. In fact, we have received no complaints to date, except from someone who doesn’t live at the building and says they are related to one of the tenants,” he said. “The renovation will help continue to ensure that the building can remain as it is as a rental, and that it will support affordable housing stock and be less expensive than a new development.”

Ludvik was also involved in a similar situation in Ladysmith in 2021.

The building is an apartment complex located near City Hall in Campbell River. Some tenants have been living in the complex for over 30 years.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day we can make sure that everybody is being treated within their rights and that people aren’t just losing their housing and end up in a precarious situation,” Babchuk said. “People were very concerned. There were some pretty serious allegations around feeling bullied and whatnot.

“I haven’t spoken to the landlord yet, or if he wishes to speak to me, I’m not sure,” she said. “I just want to make sure that everybody’s rights are being met and that we aren’t following paths of renovictions like we’ve seen in other communities.”

Also at the meeting were representatives from Campbell River Advocacy, the Ministry of Social Developments and Poverty Reduction and the John Howard Society, who “sat in, just so we could make sure that these tenants knew what their rights were and what landlords must do if they are choosing to redevelop their property,” Babchuk said.

“We also wanted to take a look at what kind of process happens through the rental tribunal… The goal was to hear some of their concerns and to make sure that the services and supports were there for them, should they feel that they needed to take another step.”

The province recently announced a cap on rental increases year over year, limiting the amount of increase to two per cent. However, that only applies to the same tenancy. Once a tenancy ends, landlords are able to ask any amount for rent, including market rates and more.

“We’ve put a lot of money into taking a look at affordable housing and making sure that life is affordable for British Columbians,” Babchuk said. “It’s just a challenge right now. We’re certainly dealing with extra-high market priced rents, and housing costs.

“We’ll continue to keep that as a priority for sure as a government, but really what we want to make sure in this instance is that everybody is being treated fairly and that the processes that are in place for landlords to be able to develop or redevelop their property are being met,” she said. “It was pretty heart-felt, there were a lot of pretty sad stories there… It’s not good.”

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