West End resident Jill Ottier doesn’t know if she will have a place to live come March.
Ottier, who rents a second floor unit in the three-storey apartment complex at 825 Gilford St., received notice from the management company, Macdonald Realty, two days before Christmas informing her she had to vacate the home where she has lived for seven years. She must be out by Feb. 28.
Ottier said she was completely taken aback by the notice sent at the start of the holiday season.
“I don’t know why they picked on me,” she said.
John Santics of Macdonald Realty, whose signature is on the notice, said Ottier is a model tenant who has never missed a rent payment but the owners, Linda Forgach and Gene Santos, want to retire and move a caretaker in to Ottier’s suite to take over managing the 16-unit complex.
He said Ottier’s home was simply the least desirable as a rental so was chosen to house the caretaker.
Ottier doesn’t buy it. She claims up to six units in the complex are not rented out, including two the owners use for storage, offering plenty of options for the caretakers, she said.
She rejects the argument her unit is the least desirable in the building. The suite is large, well lit and looks out at the side and the backyard of the building, she said. Other apartments on the same floor look out at the back and the front, which would enable a caretaker to watch the front door for security, she argued, adding those suites cost less for rent than her unit.
Santics said it is not true there are units sitting empty, but confirmed two are used for storage and are “uninhabitable.”
At least one other tenant in the building agreed with Ottier’s arguments but was not willing to speak on the record.
“It is not rational thinking. They just want me out and I am just thinking it has to be an age bias or something,” said Ottier, 67, who suffers from the lung disease COPD.
Ottier’s case will go to a Residential Tenancy Branch hearing Feb. 13.
She said she is worried for her neighbours, some of whom are also seniors, if her eviction goes ahead because she believes they could also be vulnerable to eviction.
Tom Durning of the non-profit Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre said cases like Ottier’s come down to whether the renter can prove the landlord has not acted in good faith.
Durning, who has lived in the West End for 35 years, pointed to a similar case in the 1990s when renter Susan Cameron protested her eviction from her Bute Street apartment.
The case was eventually resolved in Cameron’s favour with an arbitrator ruling Cameron had been evicted for reasons other than needing a suite for a caretaker. But that case took years of costly legal battles, something Ottier said she can’t afford.
She said she hasn’t considered what she will do if she is forced to leave her home. “It is my safe place,” she said.
The owners declined comment when contacted by the Courier.
Please note this story has been corrected since it was first posted.