Squamish home for a family?

Melanie Marohn's family of four was told by multiple landlords they won't rent to children

Melanie Marohn has lived and rented in Squamish since 2002, but she says her family has had to move three times since 2014 because landlords have wanted to take over possession of their properties.

This month, Marohn, her husband and two young children moved out of the suite they'd been renting for three years. The landlords had listed the house for sale in April, and even though it wasn't formally put into writing, Marohn said the family felt compelled to move once the house was listed.

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The Residential Tenancy Act dictates the tenancy continues when a landlord plans to sell a property, whether it is the whole unit or just a suite. Once sold, the tenancy is supposed to continue under the same terms with the new landlord. If the buyer wishes to end the tenancy, they must give the tenants two month's notice, but only if the buyer or their family is moving in.

Marohn said her family wasn't comfortable waiting to see what would happen once a new landlord came in.

Finding an apartment to rent in Squamish on short notice was "nothing short of a miracle," Marohn told The Chief. "I feel like we won the lottery because it was not easy to find a place. 

"It's incredible the things landlords are saying, like, 'No, we don't want to rent to kids,'" she said, something she heard three times during their housing search. 

While landlords can limit how many people are in a unit and can decide if a tenant is suitable, they cannot refuse to rent to a family with children. If determined to be discrimination, such a situation would go to the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The  Residential Tenancy Act only begins when a tenant and landlord enter an agreement.

"You can file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal each time a landlord does that, but it takes a lot of time and energy. I don't think a lot of people have that time and energy," Marohn said. She'd considered filing such complaints but said she doesn't have much time between the move and caring for her two young children.

The family had been considering moving out of Squamish, because of the housing market. But when Marohn's husband was hired by GFL, landing a well-paying job cleaning out port-a-potties, they decided to stay.

"It's really sad that it's so hard for even for people with really good jobs to find adequate housing. Eventually, if it keeps going the way it's going, nobody's going to be here to suck the [feces] out of the port-a-potties," she said.

There's not much the District of Squamish is able to do about this kind of scenario.

"This situation raises issues related to the Residential Tenancy Act, provincial legislation that the District has no ability to consider or enforce," Gary Buxton, the general manager of the District of Squamish's Community Planning and Infrastructure, wrote in an email.

"The District's possible responses to helping in the rental market are usually through encouraging the development of rental properties through the Zoning Bylaw, and discouraging the use of rental properties for short term [vacation] rentals by regulations, which the District is in the process of developing. As part of the short term rental regulation project, the District is also exploring creation of incentives for properties that contribute the use of accessory dwelling units, such as suites and coach houses, to the long term rental stock."

Now, Marohn is relieved to live in an apartment where her family isn't at risk of a landlord selling or moving in. In sharing her story, she hopes other renters in Squamish don't give up hope in their search for housing.

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