Three big-boned cats. Two soft dogs. Pamylla Brown and her family are just under Delta’s legal limit for the number of pets a resident can keep on their property.
But Brown’s landlord at Shannon Gardens, the North Delta apartment complex where she’s lived for the last 11 years, disagrees. Brown’s tenancy agreement says she is only allowed one pet, although she said she’s had more than that since she moved in and claims the property management company has always known about it.
At the end of April, Brown received an eviction notice in part because she was breaching a material term of her rental agreement.
“We’re going to have a fight on our hands,” she said. “I’m going to fight this thing tooth and nail. It’s me against the world, so to speak. That’s what I feel like.”
However, Brown said her eviction is just one part of her fight with the management of Shannon Gardens, one that she said is turning her home of 11 years into a slum.
“It’s very beautiful here, and I think … Delta is really trying to upgrade and make things pretty,” Brown said about the state of the city. “But this person who owns [Shannon Gardens] is just not interested in it at all.”
“People have called it a slum,” she continued, speaking directly about the apartment complex. “I think Delta actually deserves better than a slum.”
Cressey Development Group, the parent company for Cascadia Apartment Rentals Ltd. which manages Shannon Gardens, declined to comment on either Brown’s eviction or general issues of maintenance and upkeep at Shannon Gardens.
Shannon Gardens was built in North Delta back in the early 1980s by Cressey Development Corporation, as the company was known back then. According to the City of Delta, the 168-unit apartment complex was open for occupancy in March of 1982.
In August 2012, Shannon Gardens underwent significant renovations to the exterior balconies, decks, deck coatings, structural framing and replacement of the wooden railings.
Now, the apartment complex looks old, but not necessarily woebegone. The three buildings encircle a courtyard with large trees shading the pathways where residents walk their dogs.
Along 80th Avenue, a large sign proclaims that there are homes available for rent. According to Shannon Gardens’ rental website, a one-bedroom starts at $1,150, while a two-bedroom starts at $1,400. Apartments are split into pet-friendly and pet-free.
Brown is paying $1,286 for her two-bedroom home. Another couple in her building pays $1,266 for their two-bedroom.
Brown and some of her friends who live in the same building are alleging that Cressey Development is trying to get them out of the building in order to refurbish the apartments and raise the rent.
“I look at it this way,” said Rene Montigny, who lives in another end of the same building. “If you’re not paying $1,400 a month here, they don’t want you here.”
Cressey Development declined to comment.
Inside Brown’s apartment, the ceiling in the kitchen is bubbled from a leak upstairs, and the drywall near the floor shows Brown’s poor patch job after her dishwasher flooded and soaked up into the walls. There are two small poke holes in the ceiling of her bathroom, leftover from an upstairs leak into her unit. Brown claims mould built up in that area before staff came to drain the leak, and she said she sprays the area every week to deal with lingering mould issues.
“They come and they say, ‘This is wrong, this is wrong. Clean it up, do this, do that’,” she said. “But they themselves don’t hold up their landlord part.”
“There’s only so much a person can do without the landlord’s cooperation.”
According to the Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline on the landlord-tenant responsibilities for residential premises, landlords are responsible for making sure the residence meets health, safety and housing standards set out by law. Tenants are responsible for maintaining reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards in the home.
In addition, landlords are responsible for repairs and maintenance that comes from reasonable wear and tear. Tenants are responsible for repairs and maintenance that come from damages or neglect on the tenant’s part.
|Brown had placed a rug over the deteriorating carpet at her back door. The carpet is in similar condition throughout the rest of the house. (Grace Kennedy photo)|
The problem comes in deciding which concerns are from reasonable wear and tear, and which are from deliberate damage or neglect. A residential tenancy branch arbitrator can decide where the requested repairs fall.
There are some areas of maintenance in the Residential Tenancy Policy Guideline that fall only to the landlord. Among other things, these include painting the residence at reasonable intervals, a task Brown said hasn’t been done since she moved in 11 years ago.
Tenants are solely responsible for cleaning the carpets, among other things, a task Brown claims she hasn’t been able to do as carpet cleaning companies refuse to work on her carpet because of its deteriorating condition.
Cressey Development Group declined to comment on their policies when it came to maintenance and repairs.
Brown isn’t the only one who has said Cascadia Apartment Rentals Ltd. isn’t doing their job when it comes to maintenance. Neighbour Joy Beaton said she has a hole in her wall from when maintenance came to inspect a leak, and claims she is missing underlay in her carpeting after another leak.
Rene and Vickki Montigny, who live on the same floor, also claim management isn’t doing their due diligence in regard to the Montigny’s balcony.
|Rene Montigny (left) and Vickki Montigny (right) in their Shannon Gardens home. (Grace Kennedy photo)|
The Montignys’ apartment is in better shape than Brown’s. The couple has two cats and a squawking bird — their tenancy agreement allows for multiple pets — and although the shelving in their bathroom is coming away from the wall and the deck had a thick layer of algae at its edge, it was bright and reasonably well kept.
The algae is one of the main problems the Montignys’ have. In late April, 68-year-old Rene Montigny fell on his balcony because of the slick conditions. He said his right side is now numb.
“I’m very uncomfortable,” he said. “I’m in pain constantly.”
Shannon Gardens management left a note to say they would be inspecting for water damage on the Montignys’ balcony, but had to delay the meeting several times.
Cressey Development declined to comment on issues at Shannon Gardens.
On Thursday, May 18, Brown, her fellow tenant Gary Flathers, Beaton and the Montignys went to meet with Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon to discuss the condition of Shannon Gardens.
At the meeting, Brown said, she explained how the apartment complex hadn’t been taken care of to her satisfaction, while rents had continued to rise. She also mentioned her eviction, and some other residents who had suffered similar fates.
Kahlon told the Reporter it was not the first time that renters had brought their complaints to him, but is was the first time that a group of tenants from one property had come together to discuss their tenancy issues with him.
“I’ve been hearing these concerns for the last six, seven months, from many residents,” Kahlon said. “I’m troubled by some of the things I hear.
“I think one of the challenges with Shannon Gardens and a lot of the housing units along Scott Road is they’ve seen Delta Rise being constructed,” he continued. “My fear is a lot of these organizations … will see this as an opportunity to try to move people out so they can put forward proposals to build high-density, expensive homes or condos.
“That’s my concern, this sudden surge of … affordable rental space being eliminated.”
Cascadia Apartments Rentals’ head office told the North Delta Reporter that Shannon Gardens was definitely not up for redevelopment, as the company had put significant funds into the three buildings.
Kahlon said he will be discussing Brown’s file with the tenancy branch and then meeting with Brown and the others again. Another couple, who was evicted from Shannon Gardens in April over a purported odour in their apartment, is also expected to join them.
Kahlon and his office won’t be intervening in their dispute with Cascadia Apartment Rentals Ltd. — that’s not his job — but he said he will make sure they have access to the resources they need.
In the meantime, Brown and her neighbours are in a waiting game. For Brown, it’s waiting to see if she will have a home to stay at.
“I’m trying to tell [my son] Rikk, ‘It’s going to be okay, you’re not going to be homeless,’” she said. “But his stomach tells him otherwise. It’s just been a struggle.
“We certainly haven’t had peace. We haven’t had peace since April 16, as a matter of fact. It’s just been one problem after another.”