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‘I’m freezing my butt off’: Burnaby tenant lawyering up after landlord shuts off heat amid cold snap

Tenant fears she's being punished for complaints
Thermostat 11062020
(Photo by Dan LeFebvre | Unsplash)

A Burnaby renter is getting ready for legal action after the heat in her basement suite stopped working during the current cold snap.

She is now lawyering up because she thinks the heat was deliberately shut off to “punish” her for pushing back on a series of issues involving her landlord.

“I’m freezing my butt off,” the tenant told the NOW (she didn’t want her name used as she is planning on moving out and doesn’t want to turn off future landlords). “It suddenly went off on Christmas eve and as of Monday it was still off. I contacted my landlord who didn’t return my messages until Boxing Day. He says he is ‘checking into it’ but there’s been no action. He’s claiming that it needs a technician and none are available, but I don’t believe a word he says.”

The tenant says she has been harassed by her landlord for months because he tried to raise her rent despite a rent freeze by the provincial government. She literally printed off the documents from the government website to show him.

The tenant has also detailed a series of issues involving pests, unrepaired plumbing and more.

“My landlord said I complain too much, but these things are his responsibility,” she said. “I think he’s getting back at me by doing this so I’m going to seek legal action any way that I can.”

According to Section 32 of B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining their residential properties in a state that complies with the health, safety and housing standards required by law.

Things are set to get even colder.

An Arctic ridge of high pressure over the B.C. interior is bringing strong and bitterly cold outflow winds to Metro Vancouver Environment Canada stated in a recent weather alert. The alert applies to the City of Vancouver, Burnaby, New West, the North Shore including West Vancouver and North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley, Richmond and Delta.

“Arctic outflow winds and low temperatures will combine to produce wind chill values near or below minus 20,” the alert reads. “Mainland inlets and areas that are exposed to outflow winds are more likely to experience these very cold wind chill values.”

This is what the government said about rent increases.
When issuing a new notice of rent increase, a landlord must:

  • Use the approved notice of rent increase form
  • Use the maximum amount for 2022: 1.5%
  • Give the tenant no less than three full months before the notice takes effect. For example:
  • If rent is due on the fifteenth of each month, notice must be given before October 14, 2021 and the first increased rent payment will be due January 15, 2022.

Another Burnaby resident also detailed issues involving a previous landlord, saying that the Residential Tenancy Branch is able to do little to help people.

“My former landlord was always miserable and paranoid over the years, never being very pleased by anyone parking in front of the house, even my parents who he was always friendly to if they stopped by for a short visit to drop something off,” the renter wrote. “He installed cameras at the front of the house a few years ago and I swear to you, I think all he did after that was sit on his couch watching TV and his computer screen simultaneously, waiting for anything to happen. If I crossed the yard to check the mailbox on the far side from my suite, he’d come out onto the porch to chat with me. Once, a friend of mine had parked in front of the house briefly while she came around the back to my door and when she was leaving, he came out to rudely tell her not to park where she had. I missed this happening, but they both called me immediately after and told me their versions of the story. She said he swore at her about it.” 

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.