Surrey Now: Whalley tenants feel ignored by city hall, call for landlord complaint registry

Posted November 28, 2016

Tenants of a Whalley apartment feel their concerns over dire living conditions have been ignored by city hall.
Resident Muriel Wyatt says the elevator in her building at 13979 104th Ave. didn’t work for six months following a fire in May.
It’s now been fixed, but according to Wyatt, it breaks down.
“Yesterday (Nov. 24), it wasn’t working,” she said.
She listed a myriad of other problems, including loose railings and rodents.
Wyatt said Surrey City Hall ignored their woes for months.
“We phoned when our elevator was down and they said they didn’t have such a bylaw,” she said.
According to ACORN, a tenants’ advocacy group that Wyatt belongs to, residents were referred to the fire department and told a bylaw didn’t exist to help them.
But one does. Surrey updated its Standards of Maintenance bylaw in 2012 to include the stipulation that “every elevator in a Rental Premises shall be maintained in a safe, clean condition.”
But for months, Wyatt, a senior citizen, says she had to lug groceries for herself and her boyfriend up the stairs.
“My boyfriend can’t walk the stairs, and there are other tenants that can’t walk the stairs,” she remarked.
“The city’s not listening to me, the landlord is not listening to me. Why should we have to fight?” she lamented. “The city’s supposed to help their citizens.”
The Whalley apartment’s management declined an interview with the Now. When Royal Providence Management was contacted on Nov. 25, a woman who answered the phone said, “The elevator has been repaired and we have no comment.”
She then hung up before the Now could ask for her name or more details.
Surrey’s manager of bylaw enforcement Jas Rehal said he believes there’s been a miscommunication because the city’s bylaw most certainly includes elevators.
“The Standards of Maintenance bylaw is very clear with elevator, water and some other necessities. I think there’s been some confusion calling different departments…. One hundred per cent it should be covered.”
Rehal suspects residents’ calls have called in to the wrong departments, adding the city has used the bylaw to take action before.
“We’ve had situations where electricity has been cut off,” said Rehal. “We expect (landlords) to work with the tenants… We encourage them to work together and come to a solution. If not, we’ll step in with fines.”
He added he plans to meet with ACORN to “bridge the gap.”
Meanwhile, ACORN is also calling on the City of Surrey to establish a landlord registry, in the form of an online database to track complaints filed by tenants under this bylaw.
The group says this will “help prospective tenants differentiate between well managed, and poorly managed properties in the city, and offer a measure of choice in an already hostile housing market.”
It seems the idea might have merit.
“I’m going to look at this request and see what we can do,” Rehal told the Now. “We have to look at it from a privacy perspective, but I can see where they’re coming from.”
For Wyatt, the logic is simple.
“It’s just getting ridiculous,” she said. “The rent is high, you have to pay rent, they should take care of the building,.”
Article by Amy Reid for Surrey Now