Investigation launched over claim Victoria landlord issued unfair rent ultimatum
The Residential Tenancy Branch has launched an investigation after CTV News aired a story about tenants who claimed their landlord was using fear tactics to try to jack up their rent.
Jennifer Mateer said she and at least two other tenants of Daytona Apartments in James Bay were asked to pay a huge rent increase higher than the legal annual limit, then sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep quiet about it.
She said the alternative she was given was to start looking for new housing in a rental market with a miniscule 0.5 per cent vacancy rate.
"I thought I had a good relationship with my landlord up until the date of my eviction," Mateer said.
Her landlord, Rick Kallstrom, replied by saying he's done nothing wrong.
"Yes, I did speak to people and said hey, if you want to agree to that, then I'll choose somebody else," he said. "I'm going to say something that will offend a lot of people: I am a business man, not a social worker."
In some cases, proposed rent increases were around $400 a month, or a 38 per cent jump.
B.C. law says you can only jack up the rent by four per cent a year, but what some tenants discovered is that what their landlord was doing could be interpreted as legal.
Kallstrom said the evictions were to house a family member, which is allowed in B.C, and if a tenant signs a rent increase document a landlord can charge more.
"The law allows a tenant to agree to an above-guideline rent increase," said Kallstrom.
But tenant advocates say in B.C.'s tight rental market, that increase document puts people between a rock and a hard place.
"Unfortunately in this housing crisis, we need to see those laws strengthened even further," said Emily Rogers of the Together Against Poverty Society.
Kallstrom isn't apologizing for his actions and claims he acted in good faith.
"I want to make more money," he said. "There's also the political point that I think rent control is wrong. I think the kind of tax that is levied on me is wrong."
Mateer said she refused the rent increase and she's lucky to have found another apartment, but she hopes the provinces takes a closer look at tenancy regulations so what happened to her can't happen again.
A Ministry of Housing spokesperson confirmed to CTV News on Wednesday that the Residential Tenancy Branch was investigating as a result of media coverage, but did not provide any other details about the investigation