Zora Hlevnjak faces eviction from her Sidney apartment after depositing money raised from empty cans and donations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

B.C. woman refuses to pay overdue rent based on income raised collecting empty cans

Portion that Zora Hlevnjak pays for subsidized rent went up after she reported more of her income

A 76-year-old woman in the Victoria area who collects empty cans to supplement her pension faces eviction after her rent was raised to include her income from the cans.

Zora Hlevnjak, a familiar figure in the community of Sidney, will be evicted on Jan. 21 from her subsidized housing unit because of failure to pay $1,087 for three months’ worth of rent following a rent increase.

Beacon Community Services, the organization that operates Wakefield Manor, raised Hlevnjak’s rent to 30 per cent of her income after she deposited money raised from collecting empty cans and donations from passersby.

Hlevnjak said she has formally challenged having to pay the rent, arguing the money from cans and donations does not qualify as income, and that she does not benefit from it because she sends it to her family in Croatia.

“I knew [the rules], but my mind doesn’t allow me to accept to pay [back-rent] from empties and from people that give me money for food,” she told Black Press Media over the course of two interviews. “I didn’t spend it and I don’t even have that money. I sent it to my people.”

Hlevnjak said she gets about $1,500 from the federal government through various pensions, and routinely sends money, including can deposits, to family members in Croatia every year since she came to Canada in 1966.

RELATED: More people are being evicted from subsidized housing in Victoria, experts say

A friend who accompanied her on the interview suggested she start looking after herself rather than others in a distant country, especially with rent due.

But Hlevnjak said her landlords don’t deserve the money. “They didn’t work hard for it. It was [a] gift for me.”

Tim O’Brien, who manages the building where she has lived since 2004, said tenants in subsidized housing must pay 30 per cent of their income towards rent, which is the affordable standard throughout the province

“We didn’t raise the rent. She just started to report her proper income,” he said, adding that tenants must also submit income tax statements, bank statements, and Service Canada statements each year to establish the 30-per-cent portion.

“Please understand – it’s not my choice to evict her,” O’Brien said. “We are not in the eviction business. We are in the accommodation business, helping and serving those who are less fortunate and who require subsidized housing.”

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

Hlevnjak says she blames herself for her situation. “I stupidly put in bank because I was afraid of fire and thieves.”

She repeated that she hasn’t used any money from cans or passersby. “I didn’t even spent five cents on my birthday,” said the woman, whose clothing hardly suggests a life in the lap of luxury.

She also acknowledged that she has trouble remembering things and admits to feeling stressed by the situation.

But her defiant tone and decision to seek legal support suggests the issue is far from settled.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sold-out in Surrey: the ‘Second Coming of Delamont’s ‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’

‘The title tends to scare a few people away,’ Victoria-based performer says of his hit show

White Rock neighbours to host second-annual ‘Feast for Friends’

Victoria Terrace residents to raise money for food bank

Task force brainstorms on support for Semiahmoo homeless community

Community service providers gather to discuss options for housing, income safety and more

Two people reportedly sent to hospital after two-vehicle collision in Surrey

Collision happened on the 16500-block of 64 Avenue

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Most Read