CBC News: Tenants group in Surrey demands 'complaint database'

Posted November 25, 2016

Residents of a Surrey, B.C., apartment building say their complaints to the city over their living conditions have been falling on deaf ears. 
 
The three-storey building in Whalley houses mostly seniors, people with disabilities and low-income tenants, according to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
 
ACORN member Kristina Foley says tenants deal with a myriad of issues in the building, from problems with repairs, to bed bugs and garbage strewn in the back.
 
Building resident Muriel Wyatt, 65, says the elevator has been a particularly troubling issue after it was damaged in a fire months ago.  
 
"They say it's brand new parts, but it's been breaking down," said Wyatt. "We've got seniors in the building. There's a couple, her husband has strokes. He's fallen down the stairs and nobody cares."
 
"It's really a deplorable building," said Foley, which is why she says residents are frustrated that every time they have raised issues with the city, they've been met with "indifference and denial."
 
Complaint database
 
Residents say they have called the Surrey bylaw enforcement office repeatedly to complain under the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw, which is intended to ensure basic levels of maintenance for rental accommodations.  
 
"When I call, it's like they don't even care. They don't even bother to write it down," said ACORN member Jamie Lavoie.
 
On Thursday, a few of the residents, along with ACORN members, held a rally to demand the city create a complaint database so that calls don't get lost.  
 
"A tracking database for all the rental buildings in Surrey so that if a tenant calls to complain about an infraction, there's a record of it," said Foley.
 
"One of the issues for this building in particular was the tenants were calling and there was no record of who took the call, what the complaint was and everybody just said they didn't know what was going on."
 
"We want a database so that there's more level of accountability," said Foley.
 
City open to database
 
The City of Surrey says it is open to the idea of a complaint database, although it has to look at it in more detail before it makes a decision.
 
"We'll take out time to look at that and see what we can come up with," said bylaw manager Jas Rehal 
 
"I can see where they're coming from.... We have to look at balancing the privacy concerns and, you know, what information we can and cannot share with the public."
 
Rehal says he believes many of the building's tenants have called the wrong number, even though people at Thursday's rally specifically stated they had called the bylaw office.
 
"I think what's happened is unfortunately they've called other numbers and those departments are not familiar with that bylaw that relates to standards and maintenance," said Rehal.
 
​"So my advice is everyone call the bylaw department and we'll co-ordinate on what's required."
 
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Article by Kamil Maramali for CBC News