***For Immediate Release***
As B.C. experiences a third wave of COVID-19 and tighter restrictions, renter Warren Bowen and his partner are worried about their safety as their landlord hosts real estate open houses in the 750 sq ft condo his partner rents.
Current BC COVID guidelines permit this activity: “Rental and home viewings should be restricted to a maximum of six people, subject to each person present being able to keep two metres away from every other person present at all times.” Bowen’s partner, the renter, requested viewings to be remote, but the landlord had refused to accommodate. Warren’s partner works from home during the weekdays and weekends, and as such, cannot leave while the viewings are taking place.
Bowen has called PHO (Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Office), Ministry of Health (Adrian Dix’s office), Ministry of Housing (David Eby’s office), MLA Niki Sharma, the City of Vancouver, RTB and TRAC on his partner’s behalf to ask about her rights. According to Bowen, the PHO was dismissive of his concerns, . “They said it was ‘pretty much impossible’ to contract covid in this context as long as we ‘don’t sit down and have a glass of wine with [the viewers],’” said Bowen. “Not only did they tell me it was my partner’s choice to be present during the viewings, despite having to work from home due the pandemic, but they also claimed that renting itself was a choice, and seemed to imply she had put herself in this situation,” he added.
“We’ve heard from many renters over the duration of the pandemic with concerns about unnecessary in-person viewings and open houses and landlord access since initial restrictions were relaxed last summer” said Megan Milton, a volunteer with the Vancouver Tenants Union. “Renters are being told that their health and safety is secondary to ensuring real estate transactions can continue like normal, and they have no choice in the matter.”
VTU members have pushed for strong pandemic-era protections, and continue to demand the return of the eviction ban as the third wave hits B.C, and stronger limits to in-person viewings and open houses.
Illustration by Helena Krobath