In my second year, I like many students moved off campus. It was a decision motivated by an irrational need for independence despite not knowing what that would entail, and a very rational need not to shell out thousands of dollars on a meal plan. I don’t regret that decision despite all the unfair actions that have been taken against me, my roommates, and nearly all of my peers at this university by the landlords who primarily rent to students.
My apartment in second year had many units haphazardly stuck together on a small lot. Multiple walls were patched with plywood. Previous tenants left drawings on the ceiling (we lost our security deposit for this). The maintenance guys hired by our landlord were creepy, frightening women who lived in the complex on multiple occasions. By the end of the year we had a wall collapse from flooding, and my parents wondered how the rest of the building didn’t go with it.
My third year apartment was supposed to be nicer. It had heat pumps and a furnace for secondary heat. Unfortunately for us the landlords locked out the thermostat. In the winter I would measure temperatures as low as 2 degrees Celsius in my bedroom. No amount of begging would have the landlords fix the heat problem. To rent that apartment this year would cost you $575 per month per person plus wifi. I know landlords who have refused to repair windows despite the tenants only signing the lease on the condition it would be replaced by fall. It wasn’t fixed until hey moved out the next May.
You may say that there are remedies in the law. That the Residential Tenancies Act has answers. If I could organize to meet with a lawyer during exam period, or if people late on rent could afford their fees then I may have been able to find out if you were right. However that wasn’t what happened because the tools to solve problems are not readily in the hands of those who need them, that’s what a tenant’s union could do.
Beyond providing information and resources to the renting class, tenants unions in Vancouver, in Kingston, in LA, the UK have prevented unreasonable rent increases, increases in quality of rentals, and protections for the most vulnerable members of our community. I don’t want to hear another landlord gleefully talk about how they prefer to rent to students rather than a struggling single mom who was late on rent. I don’t want to hear about how my friends are being charged and/or suffering from landlord’s negligence. I want a tenant’s union.
The path to that goal begins with you, with sharing your stories of excessive amounts being taken from your security deposit, broken appliances, and landlords barging in for a showing in the middle of your studying. If you have experienced these mistreatments or any others at the hands of local landlords, please get in touch with Josée Léger (Opinions Editor) @ [email protected] . Every measure to respect your privacy will be taken.