Abuse of power is ubiquitous in all areas of life, but the Landlord/Tenant relationship can be one of the most intimidating and invasive.
According to Mayor Gregor Robertson of Vancouver, BC Canada “renters make up over half of all households”. Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America to live in, so for many buying a condominium is not in the cards. Therefore, people are left to scramble over the 0.7% vacant apartment rentals in this city. Notwithstanding rent rates are so high that the average person cannot comfortably afford it. Many people like our vulnerable elderly have to scrounge through garbage bins for their dinner because they cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
Our home is supposed to be our sanctuary – “a place of refuge or safety (haven, harbor, oasis, shelter, retreat…….”) but, sadly more often than not this is not the case.
Does the standard of landlord-tenant relationships give rise to a fiduciary relationship? “Fiduciary – of or relating to a duty of acting in good faith with regard to the interests of another”. Some experts (lawyers) say “yes” and some say “no”. It is said that this relationship is a contractual one and therefore cannot be a fiduciary one. I am not a lawyer and trying to decipher their jargon is too much for my brain. I will focus the the cold hard facts “experienced” by far too many renters.
There is a long-standing Landlord/Tenant common law principle known as “quiet enjoyment”, which basically places a duty on the landlord to provide the tenant with (and not to interfere with) peaceful, undisturbed and dignified possession of the premises – limited only by necessary interruptions for maintenance and safety.
What happens when you can’t trust your landlord and they don’t comply with your rights to the quiet enjoyment of your premises?
Well, we do have the Residential Tenancy Act but Mayor Gregor Robertson says, “….I want the provincial government to overhaul rental legislation as the city grapples with an affordable housing crisis, low vacancy rates and renovictions (the forcing out of long-term tenants to ostensibly renovate with the intention of then putting up the rent). Gregor Robertson has put forward a motion to council to review the Residential Tenancy Act and identify potential changes to increase resources and strengthen protections for renters and low-income earners.” I maintain that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whichever the case may be, a fiduciary or contractually obligation, I believe that abuse of power, as nebulous as that can be, is by far the most important point I want to make.
This is a quote I found on the internet that speaks to some of what I wish to address:
“While the relationship between Landlord and Tenant may be primarily contractual (lease) there is (I claim) also a fiduciary relationship there, in the fact the the landlord has an access key to the tenant’s apartment, which means that he has monumental access to one’s privacy, including computer hard drives, passwords, medical files, bank statements etc etc and including access to DNA samples (hair strands etc) plus a facility (key copy) to pass on or sell this access to virtually anyone of his choosing, including government and law enforcement and without the knowledge of the tenant. Its an unusually powerful position that the landlord achieves through the Statutory requirement that forces the tenant to provide this access key to a person who is not of his choosing and who may be not at all given to respect this trusted relationship.”
If the Residential Tenancy Act does not address real tenant issues as stated by the Major and with our poverty rate: “Using the Low Income Cut-Off–After Tax (LICO-AT) as the poverty line, one in 10 British Columbians are living in poverty. That’s 469,000 people struggling to make ends meet. In relation to the rest of the country.” (Canadian Government statistics) where do you go and what do you do?
As a renter myself for so many years I don’t want to count I know this experience well. The panicked, helpless and hopeless feeling up against a tyrant disrespectful landlord. Because this is such a contentious issue for all renters, renters talk to each other in the supermarket, in the elevators, on the street, in the laundry room etc etc.
This is a common mandate of particularly property management companies:
…….treat our residents with the utmost respect and strive to meet their needs well beyond their rental apartment. The reason for our success is this: the needs of our residents are central to our operation and influence everything we do. We not only work with our residents to provide a home but we work to create a comfortable residential community in which to live…… What a load of hogwash!
Some of the things I have been told, experienced and observed:
* Illegal conduct; landlords illegally entering suites: letting unauthorized people into peoples suites: taking money left out in an old lady’s suite: improper serving of notices of entry etc.
* Managers, the people who have the keys to your home see this job far to often as a place to party, get drunk, slam doors in tenants faces, ignore your questions and requests, tell you to fuck off, have no idea what the Residential Tenancy Act even says never mind follow it, don’t keep the common areas clean, you can’t ever find them (sleeping I think) etc.
This is just the beginning of the infringement and violation of our rights as tenants and Canadian citizens.
Now just imagine if you are old, fragile, mentally and/or physically challenged or an immigrant who may not speak any or little English, don’t know their rights, may not be a Canadian citizen and think they don’t have any and come from countries that do not allow the defending of your human rights and are too frightened to speak up. Who does that leave to defend the very large group of defenseless people? Not many. We also know that those who can speak up – wont for all kinds of reasons like intimidation, fear or no concern for others. And then there are people like me who will stick their neck out and defend our rights at great expense emotionally to ourselves. Enter the lawyers. If you do speak up you are likely to get a letter from the lawyers to intimidate you into silence. Now renters are already stretched to their financial limits who can afford a lawyer, and they know that. That doesn’t work on me but does it hurt me and disrupt my life – yes. But I am a renter and I am not just here on this earth to take care of myself. I cannot and will not sit by and allow myself to be abused but also I cannot watch others be abused either.
I will speak more on this issue over time.