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Visting students beware of Vancouver scams

As my landlord-tenant blog draws to a close I wanted to address one last issue.  A collection of the international…

By Heather Amos , in Vancouver's bitter suite life? , on February 5, 2009 Tags: , , ,

As my landlord-tenant blog draws to a close I wanted to address one last issue.  A collection of the international students living in Vancouver find themselves in a living situation no one in this city should have to experience.  When I started this blog I wanted to expose some of the problems tenants and landlords face in Vancouver.  I wanted to inform, I wanted to help those who weren’t aware of these issues and information.


As I complained about my own landlord issues, everyone I spoke to had a landlord story to share.  One story was recurring and very unsettling.

Some international students arrive in Canada to find their living arrangement is not quite what they expected.  It turns out that the $500/month they are paying in rent covers one quarter of an apartment.  They will end up sharing their small living space with three or four others, mattresses everywhere.

As I think about the things I value most, space is one of them.  I like having my own space to unwind in, to think in, to work in.  I admire those who can find tranquility in a crowded room.

Cramming too many people into a living area evokes thoughts of the Industrial revolution.  This immediately makes me think of health hazards like the cholera epidemics.

Many students remain silent about their living situations.  New to the country and learning the language make it difficult to know what your rights are and how to enforce them.  I’ve heard that students feel they cannot leave their apartment.  This will mean breaking a lease.  Landlords also refuse to return the deposit a student has given them.

The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre recommends that the best way to protect yourself is to get a written agreement about the number of people who can share your living space.

The most recent news about this concerns one landlord, David Messina.  Messina has a history of posting advertisements on Craigslist directed to international students.

The only reason it is in the news now is that Messina does not actually own the 570-square-foot apartment he is renting to four international students.  Messina rents it from Elisabeth Fox who is trying to get her property back because Messina hasn’t been paying rent.  Meanwhile he has sublet to the students and has been collecting rent from them.

Messina is not the least bit apologetic for what he is doing and the money he is making.  He has a criminal record and has done this in the past.

That landlords can get away with this behaviour is appalling.  It is a clear act of discrimination on a group of vulnerable people.

If you are reading this and have had a similar experience or know someone who has, please make a comment below.  I would like the opportunity to share your story.