Janine Arellano’s toxic experience as a tenant in a local rental unit made her feel scared and angry and it permanently changed her approach to renting.
Renting in Revelstoke is limited and expensive, which makes it competitive. A brief scan of the Revy Rentals Facebook page reveals that more people are looking for places to rent in Revelstoke than there are places to rent. Housing isn’t a new problem in the city. In fact, it was the biggest topic raised during the recent municipal election, and the previous city council spent a significant portion of their time outlining how to combat the housing crisis in Revelstoke through the Housing Action Plan.
The rental landscape can put renters in a precarious position. With the winter season around the corner and more renters inbound, Arellano decided to share her story so that others can learn and empower themselves to avoid the same hurt.
Nothing in the Revy Rental post seemed suspicious, so she inspected the unit and decided to move in. She got to know the landlord, which gave Arellano the impression that they were building a “good foundation”, but things changed.
“He came into my room. He came closer, and I was like ‘you need to go,’ because he was yelling and approaching,” said Arellano of her landlord.
The incident happened as Arellano prepared to move out and started pulling her belongings out to be packed into boxes. When she let her landlord in to look at an issue with the roof and he – upon seeing the mess she made while packing – entered her bedroom and began to yell at her.
She called the police, who warned that the situation could get worse and that Arellano should look for someone to stay with, or for a friend to come and stay with her.
Based on Arellano’s understanding, the landlord would be a roommate for the first few months while he worked on the downstairs unit.
“He said, ‘I’m a man of my word. And I put a lot of value on agreements.’ Like he presented himself as being someone more virtuous,” said Arellano.
So, when the landlord stated that their rental agreement would not include a signed tenancy agreement, Arellano didn’t think twice. Having hung out with him, and had good experiences in other rental units that also didn’t have rental agreements, she thought it would be OK.
“He would say, ‘I don’t get people to sign agreements because I need to protect myself,’” said Arellano.
Within the first month of being at the unit, the first issue happened. The landlord informed Arellano that she’d be getting a roommate, without warning or input, which was immediately a contradiction to their agreement. Now, the landlord would live in a different suite on the same property.
An important element in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), is a requirement to give notice prior to entering the suite being rented, which is one that Arellano’s landlord repeatedly broke.
“He would call us pigs or say that we were keeping the place in absolute disaster or that we were damaging his property,” said Arellano.
The name-calling usually occurred when the landlord would enter the unit without notice, which is what happened on her last day.
Arellano preemptively called the cops herself to get help and some protection as she and her friends continued to clear out the unit.
Despite the cop’s presence, the landlord continued to yell at Arellano as she and her friends frantically finished packing.
But now she is questioning if she left anything behind as the move happened so quickly.
Arellano has moved into a new unit with friends. Upon moving in, the landlord insisted they sign a rental agreement. Arellano said that signing one was easy.
The Residential Tenancy Act states that landlords are required by law to provide a written rental agreement.
Even without a written agreement, Laura Ramsden, a lawyer at Double Diamond Law in Whistler, said that contracts can come in other forms.
“You can enter into a tenancy agreement; you can actually enter into virtually any type of contractual relationship without actually writing it down,” said Ramsden.
Ramsden said that the benefit of writing contracts down – including tenancy agreements – is that it makes it easier when things go wrong, and when both parties need to clarify what the terms and conditions of the lease are.
She suggested that even though all contracts don’t have to be written down, it’s still always good to do.
She also suggested tenants always take the time to inspect a unit and to include as much detail in the rental agreement as possible. Clarify rent, security deposit, access to appliances, access to outdoor spaces, and anything else that feels pertinent to the unit.
Arellano reflected on what she would now recommend to others after her experience.
“People can be deceiving and if some red flags are there, just listen to it. If someone doesn’t want to sign an agreement, just don’t do it. And it sucks, and it’s hard — especially if you’re new to town,” said Arellano.
Information for landlords or tenants can be found on the Residential Tenancy Act website or click here.