‘Slave’: Burnaby tenant says he was unfairly assigned chores

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Chad got a notification some time ago that his landlord in Burnaby would raise the rent now that a freeze on rent increases was lifted.

Normally Chad would be okay with this as he expects a yearly raise, but the advice actually felt like a betrayal.

It’s because of all the work Chad does at the North Burnaby home he rents a basement suite in.

Chad wrote to me with this subject line: “My landlord in Burnaby makes me do all the chores. Now he’s raising the rent.

Chad lives downstairs, a woman in her 30s lives in another basement unit, and a middle-aged couple live upstairs. The owner lives off-site and rents out several houses, reaping big profits.

There are three other able-bodied people living in the house and a landlord, but for some reason he has been chosen to do a “to-do list” each week which ranges from cutting grass, pulling weeds weeds, extinguishing and bringing in trash cans and more – including shoveling snow several times recently.

He even had to do maintenance work like painting and repairs for things he had nothing to do with.

“He actually puts out a weekly list which is just for me. No one else has to lift a finger for anything all year,” Chad said. “I think a lot of these things should be done by the landlord themselves, but at least spread them out among the other tenants. I pushed that away and was threatened with deportation. The landlord told me he would make up transgressions and take me to the rent board to get rid of me if I didn’t comply. I am not his personal paid employee. And then he says he’s going to raise the rent. Well, maybe recognize all the free work he gets.

Chad said he was afraid to say no because he had a hard time finding housing and he didn’t want to have to look for housing anymore. The owner has nothing in writing outlining all of these tasks and Chad thinks he would have a case with the Residential Tenancies Branch, but hasn’t made the decision to rock the boat.

“Rising rents is what really did this,” Chad said. “It’s like a slap in the face to be ordered like this and told I have to pay more for the privilege.”

It’s delicate.

Tenants have certain responsibilities, but it seems pretty blatant.

Rent increases.

Effective January 1, 2022, BC landlords can increase rent by up to 1.5%, based on inflation.

BC landlords can only increase once a year, if they choose to increase the rent.

In 2021, British Columbia banned unlawful renovictions (evictions to complete renovations to a property) by requiring landlords to seek pre-approval from the Residential Tenancy Branch before ending a tenancy.

  • If a landlord has served a tenant with a rent increase notice effective in 2021, the notice is null and void and the tenant does not have to pay it.
  • The maximum allowable rent increase is defined by the average 12-month percentage change in the All-items Consumer Price Index for BC ending in July of the year prior to the calendar year for which a rent increase takes effect.
    • For example, if a rent increase takes effect in 2022, the maximum rent increase allowed is the average 12-month percentage change in the All-items Consumer Price Index for British Columbia ending in July 2021.
  • The 2022 maximum increase for manufactured home park rentals will be 1.5%, plus a proportional amount for the change in local government levies and regulated utility fees.
  • The rent increase does not include commercial rentals, non-profit housing rentals where rent is geared to income, cooperative housing and some assisted living facilities.
  • With additional reporting from Elana Shepherd, Vancouver is awesome

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

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