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Letter: I was forced to rent a glorified closet in Burnaby out of pure desperation

A renter speaks out about how a basement was split into three spaces, some only separated by curtains while still charging $950.
closet suite rental renter
A Burnaby renter says he ended up in a 'glorified closet' after a landlord switched things up at the last minute.

Editor:

Re: These are the mediocre Burnaby suites renting for outrageous sums, NOW Opinion

I read the article by Chris Campbell about the high prices Burnaby renters face in our city and I have a story to tell.

The story featured this stat: “A recent report by Rentals.ca says that Burnaby finished fourth on the list for average monthly rent in March for a one-bedroom home at $1,959 and sixth for average monthly rent for a two-bedroom at $2,398. Year over year, average monthly rent in March for a one-bedroom in Burnaby was up 16.5 per cent and up 9.9 per cent for a two-bedroom.”

Those numbers are not exaggerated. Things are that bad out there. The high prices are partially due, I think, to a lack of available listings compared with the sheer number of people who are looking for a place to live.

When the ban on evictions during COVID was lifted by the province, several of my friends were served with notices. The main excuse was that the landlords were moving family into the units, but our research showed that they simply wanted the tenants out so they could hike the rents as B.C has limited the percentage increase per year.

So all these evicted people have flooded the market and allowed landlords to steadily increase their rental prices due to the high demand.

Things were so bad that I was couch surfing my way around the city because I couldn’t find a place to rent. I kept losing out to others and I suspect that it’s because landlords are asking for key money, basically a bribe, to get to the top of the list.

I became so desperate that I ended up renting a place in basement. I don’t call it a “basement suite” because it was more of a glorified closet in a basement that had access to a shared bathroom. The landlord had split up the basement into three substandard units. One was only separated by a curtain. Even with that, I was still being charged $950 a month but, like I said, I was desperate.

I only lasted a couple of months before I started searching again and I am now living with three roommates in a shared townhouse. It’s expensive but at least I feel like I have my dignity back.

Jayson Carson, Burnaby