Renter’s Horror Stories

The true cost of a dingy basement in Vancouver…

Jasmine Garcha (she/they) // contributor
Celia Palomar Robisco (she/her) // illustrator

‘Twas the nightmare before Christmas, and all through the hostel…

Not a creature was stirring, not even a narwhal.

A man returned from work, looked to his bed, and his mood sunk… 

For there were a couple of strangers balls-deep on the top bunk!

Renting a living space can be a difficult process. From finding a place and trying to get accepted, to moving in and making an expensive moldy suite your own happy little home. Especially in Vancouver, where everything costs an eyeball and a half, and everyone is fighting for a place to live where they won’t have to cut their legs off to fit in the kitchen.

Kyle Wilfert, 24, has been renting in Vancouver for four years. Before that, he stayed in a hostel in New Zealand where he exchanged labour for a place to live for about a year. This is where the aforementioned sex story occurred. Wilfert said he was planning a hike over the next few days to spend his first Christmas away from home on a mountain. However, because of a certain couple of loud occupants, he wasn’t able to rest up enough to go. Wilfert expressed his regret over not being more confrontational in that situation, saying, “I think it’s just the act of confronting two drunk people that are having sex that’s the most uncomfortable thing.”

Divya, a current Capilano Communication Studies student who wishes to be referred to only by her first name, says the same. She stayed on campus residence during her first year and told her roommate that she’s very introverted; if her headphones are on and she’s reading a book, she doesn’t want to interact. However, her roommate may have forgotten this, because Divya became increasingly frustrated by their tendency to talk during her preferred quiet time. This led to Divya becoming quite passive-aggressive toward them over time. She says that looking back, had she reinforced her boundaries, the two of them might have been able to avoid the negative turn their friendship took over that period of time.

Other than the roommate incident, Divya says that living on campus residence is a positive experience for her. She moved back to residence after taking a year-long break. However, she says that living with limited utilities and sharing the ones she has with 27 other people is a bit tough. Her social anxiety has played a big part in her experiences in residence. Especially having moved from her parents’ house on the other side of the world to a dorm with so many roommates and no family around to guide her through adulthood. Everything she does is observable by 300 outsiders. In residence, you have to go to an entirely different building to eat, which is a big change from having everything at arm’s length, and chances are, you will encounter multiple people you know there, too. 

Divya says the toughest part of her renting experience outside of campus residence is communicating with landlords because they won’t always reply and competition is high between potential tenants. While she was a minor without a credit card, a landlord told her that he denied her application because of the lack of a credit score despite her offering to provide income statements. This occurred so close to the school year that she feared having to stay at a hotel. She says that when it comes to looking for a place to stay you should start looking early and be prepared to provide a credit score, income statements, references, and a deposit. In terms of checking the place out, Divya says, “If the landlord tells you to come meet at 6 a.m. in a basement, please don’t. Please don’t do that.”

Wilfert advises to make sure the landlord is registered. As a tenant, you have rights. If your landlord is not registered, it makes it easier for them to violate your tenant rights. B.C.’s tenancy laws require your landlord to prepare a written agreement that protects both the tenant and the landlord. The Residential Tenancy Act is free to access on the B.C. Residential Tenancies website

On top of this, he recommends figuring out certain details like what kind of heating the place has, how old the building is, and when different appliances have been replaced. It’s easy to look past these things because you might just want to find a place to live in the first place, but he says it’s good to keep that information in mind.

Although never truly having had a negative experience with a landlord, Wilfert has had several negative experiences with roommates. At his last house, one of his roommates came home with a coworker. This wouldn’t have been a big deal had the coworker left in the morning… Or ever. She stayed until they decided to end their lease. She did not pay rent, do chores, or really do anything at all other than make a mess. This is one of the situations in which Wilfert wishes he had confronted his roommate and found resolution. In case you were wondering, the couple broke up this past summer.

When it comes to roommates, Wilfert and Divya offered differing opinions. Divya believes that living with someone you’re really good friends with can either risk your friendship or your boundaries because you don’t want to upset a good friend of yours. She believes that you should live with someone you’re only okay friends with. Wilfert, on the other hand, believes that living with a good friend makes it easier to know each other’s boundaries and call each other out if the boundaries get crossed; living with someone you’re only okay friends with would make confrontation harder because you wouldn’t know them well enough. 

While opinions on roommates and sex in hostels may be subjective, the takeaway is this: Make sure your landlord has their papers in order. Make sure you have your application items (income statements, references, etc.) ready. Be safe when checking out the living space. Finally, learn your rights, advocate for yourself, and file a case with the Residential Tenancy Board if your issue isn’t addressed. At the very least, work on your communication skills so that you don’t end up moving out because your roommate invited in a freeloader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *