By now, many of you have heard about the 60 or so tenants being illegally evicted from a former Traveller’s Inn at 3025 Douglas. It’s been reported elsewhere that, despite having none of the permits required by the law, owner Mike Kelly has served notice to his tenants claiming that the building is destined for renovation.
Does the story end there? Of course not. Adding insult to injury, conditions at the property — conditions which residents with nowhere else to go are nonetheless willing to fight to live in — would make most tenants jump at the chance to move out.
Last week, I got to know two other Victoria properties currently rotting under the care of another of our region’s less charming landlords (more on that in weeks to come). While further down the path of decay being travelled by 3025 Douglas, together these properties reveal a time-honoured tradition among landlords in The Capital and beyond. Local authorities not caving to your demands? Let your properties collapse until the city has no choice but to acquiesce.
This strategy doesn’t have to be so effective. Alone amongst the region’s 13 municipalities, Esquimalt council has approved a Standards of Maintenance Bylaw to ensure that renters are protected from neglectful property owners. Under this bylaw, conditions described by 3025 Douglas resident Hal Hannon would warrant a fine of up to $10,000.
Broken windows still lined with shards of glass and old TVs and mattresses packed into hallways — both currently featured at Kelly’s property — are direct contraventions of Esquimalt’s bylaw. The common areas at 3025 Douglas littered with used condoms and old syringes were probably in mind when someone wrote the bylaw prohibiting the presence of “rubbish or noxious, offensive or unwholesome matter”.
This situation reveals one of the many pitfalls of our region’s piecemeal approach to legislation. That the quality of a rental unit or the enforceability of the Residential Tenancy Act should vary from block to block for the sake of our invisible borders is almost as outrageous as the fact that only one regional authority has thought to codify the need for clean, safe, affordable housing.
For now, let’s hope the residents of 3025 Douglas St. Find new housing in Esquimalt. M