Advocates demand Burnaby tenancy protection
Mould, like this growth seen at a Burnaby home by inspector David Fairbairn, is among the issues now driving the city's housing advocates to demand a 'standards of maintenance' bylaw. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FAIRBAIRN INSPECTION SERVICES)
Housing advocates are calling on Burnaby to establish municipal protections for renters by using bylaws present in other major Lower Mainland cities, as they say provincial protections are simply insufficient.
Acorn Burnaby chairwoman Monica McGovern said the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch’s lack of enforcement is well documented, and that has driven some cities to create their own bylaws to levy fines against landlords who don’t maintain their properties.
Burnaby lacks a similar bylaw, she said on Thursday, which means some poor and vulnerable tenants in the city must endure pest-infested and poorly maintained homes, as their calls for help often go unanswered.
“We want an act because the province and the residential tenancy branch doesn’t seem able to handle the issue,” McGovern said. “We want the city to take responsibility.”
In the case of resident Kate Watson, she left her home on advice of Fraser Health officials after mould was discovered the ventilation system shortly before Christmas.
“My mum’s respiratory system suffered severely. She ended up in hospital twice. We all got sick, including her two little doggies,” she wrote by email.
In the Lower Mainland, according to Acorn, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster and Richmond already have these “standards of maintenance” bylaws.
Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said the municipality adopted the bylaw last year after the issue was brought to council’s attention.
She said housing is a provincial responsibility, but ignoring the issue would be like “throw(ing) out the vulnerable people.”
However, as one Burnaby building inspector attests — his municipality’s staff have no way to deal with the reported issues.
“No one at city hall knows what to do with it,” assistant chief building inspector Dan Mulligan said.
“That inquiry could land on a number of different desks … we would say, ‘Gee, I’m sorry. No we don’t have a bylaw in place to deal with that.’
“And (we’ll) probably make suggestions on how to be helpful. But at the end of the day, that would be the end of the conversation.”
Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said the city had considered the merits of such a bylaw but decided creating its own would be adding to a “patchwork” of municipal laws that are different in each city.
“We have been trying to get the province to come up with what we call minimum maintenance standards,” he said. “That would be much easier for us to enforce.”