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Opinion: I ended up in a rat-infested room after Burnaby landlord pulled a ‘bait-and-switch’

Renter warns others to get specific details listed in lease
"It was on my second night there that I could hear rats scurrying behind the walls and the place started to smell mouldy" says a former Burnaby renter. Glacier Media file photo

I recently read a NOW article about a tenant who was forced to accept living in a “dirty dungeon” basement suite in Burnaby after being lied to by a landlord.

This article really hit home with me because a similar thing happened to me in Burnaby more than year ago.

COVID-19 has been hard on landlords with restrictions on evictions for bad tenants and an inability to raise rents to pay for rising costs. But that is nothing compared to the impact the pandemic has had on people who rent.

I’m happy for my friends who have had stable rental situations during the pandemic because trying to find a place during a health emergency is a scary experience that got worse for me with a scummy landlord.

I saw the listing online and this Burnaby basement suite was old but it still looked clean, bright and relatively affordable compared with other places being offered at the time. I contacted the landlord and we had some conversations but he wasn’t open to showing the place in person.

That was a red flag but he wasn’t the only landlord limiting visits due to COVID. He did, however, send me a video in which he was walking through the place and pointing out all the parts of the suite.

The landlord said there were a lot of other people bidding on the place but that he “liked me” and wanted to give me a shot at it. I just needed to cough up the deposit and “a little extra” he said to put me at the head of the line. This is also not the first landlord to do this.

I was really excited to finally get off my friend’s couch after weeks of looking for a place but when I arrived on moving day, like the person detailed in the NOW story, the landlord took me past the suite that was featured in the video and to a smaller, darker part of the house that had been converted into what I will generously call a mini-suite.

The landlord said that he ended up renting out the other, bigger suite to someone who agreed to pay more in rent in order to secure the place.

I got so angry at this jerk that he threatened to call the police on me. Imagine pulling a bait-and-switch and then saying you would be the one to call the police.

The problem is that the lease agreement just had the address of the house listed and didn’t have more details about exactly what part of the house I was renting. I could use the video but at the time, I was given a take-it-or-leave-it option. I had to take it because where else was I going to go?

It was on my second night there that I could hear rats scurrying behind the walls and the place started to smell mouldy.

I ended up leaving as soon as I could secure temporary housing and the landlord even tried to stiff me on the deposit because he said I didn’t give him proper notice. I threatened to file a complaint with the tenancy branch and he backed down.

I know there are good landlords out there in the world, but this incident really broke my trust. It only takes one bad person to ruin things.

C. Vennett now lives in the Fraser Valley where he says he found a good landlord.