For Immediate Release
April 27 2021
VANCOUVER BC (Unceded Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories): For the past two and half months tenants at 6659 Dow Avenue have been calling on their developer-landlord, Peterson Group, to address the dangerous and stressful living conditions in their building. Instead Peterson has blatantly disregarded tenants’ health and wellbeing and worked to create a climate of fear.
This week, Peterson escalated further by illegally locking tenants out of their homes, changing the locks on the building, and threatening them with eviction.
In response, twenty tenants with the Dow Avenue Tenants Group and the Eviction Defence Network paid a visit to Peterson CEO Ben Yeung’s multi-million dollar home in Kerrisdale to present their letter of demands calling for an end to Peterson’s attacks on tenants.
“Come out of your castle! Face your victims!”
Serena Lowe, a representative of the Dow Avenue Tenants Group, tried to present Yeung with a letter, signed by the majority of tenants in her building, calling on Peterson to end the harassment of tenants, to stop locking people out of their suites, and to ensure that repairs are done in a way that doesn’t put their health at risk. Rather than face the tenants his company continues to endanger, Yeung hid in his castle. After repeated calls for him to come out and address their concerns in person, the Dow Avenue Tenants Group put the letter under his door and took to the streets.
For the next half hour, working-class tenants from Metrotown marched through the streets of one of Vancouver’s wealthiest neighbourhoods chanting “Stop All Evictions! Stop the Harassment! Shame on Peterson!” and “Come out of your castle! Face your victims!” Along the way they leafletted every house on Yeung’s street, letting his neighbours know that he and his company make their millions through endangering, abusing, and displacing low-income tenants. The group then marched down 49th Avenue and blocked the intersection at Granville and 49th Avenue, demonstrating that they are willing to stop business as normal to defend tenants under attack.
According to Linda Noel, one of the leaders of the Dow Avenue Tenant Group and longtime resident of 6647 Dow Avenue,: “With courage and conviction, we marched throughout Ben Yeung’s neighborhood calling him out for his thoughtless abandonment of his tenants. With voices raised, and cheers from onlookers at 49th and Granville, we lifted each other up, determined to slay the dragon. Our fight has just begun.”
A developer’s disrepair leads to resistance
In February 2021, large parts of the ceiling fell in at 6659 Dow Avenue, exposing tenants to mold and asbestos. For an entire month Peterson, with its website ironically reading “We believe in community, fairness and setting an example by taking action,” ignored tenants’ calls to fix the damage. Peterson only began repairs after tenants spoke out publicly in the media. Since then Peterson temporarily relocated a handful of tenants to hotels in downtown Vancouver, others to unlicensed suites in the neighbourhood while other tenants have nothing but a few sheets of plastic between them and the potentially toxic damage.
Tenants’ struggle forced Peterson to begin making repairs, but even these repairs continue to put tenants’ health at risk. Peterson had a report on mold and asbestos done but has not shared the results of these reports with tenants. After removing tenants from the toxic renovation site, Peterson has not bothered to cover up personal belongings in areas where they are exposed to asbestos and mold. It has shown a consistent disregard for tenants’ personal space, damaged tenants’ personal property and left their suites’ windows and doors unlocked and unattended. Finally, it has not communicated to tenants when they will be able to return and under what conditions.
In addition to disregarding tenants’ physical health, Ben Yeung’s billion dollar development corporation, which built the luxury Shangri-La hotel in downtown Vancouver and the private-public-partnership Woodward’s condo building, has begun to harass and intimidate long-term tenants into moving out early, which would make it much harder for them to claim compensation or relocation assistance under Burnaby’s convoluted Tenant Assistance Policy. 6659 Dow Avenue is one of four buildings Peterson owns that are going through the City of Burnaby’s rezoning process.
. On Wednesday the landlord escalated further by illegally changing the locks on tenants’ suites after they moved into temporary housing and refusing them to give them a new key, locking them out of suites where they are still paying rent. Peterson only changed the locks back after tenants called the Residential Tenancy Branch Compliance Enforcement Unit and contacted the media. Despite having the key, access to one tenant’s suite is still blocked by asbestos containment. Most of her personal belonging and important medication are inside.
According to Serena Lowe, the member of the Dow Avenue Tenants Group who carried the tenants’ demand letter to Ben Yeung’s door, “The second floor repairs are happening at a slow rate and the contractors/subcontractors retained have not taken proper care to protect our belongings from being contaminated with mould and asbestos. It smells mouldy when you walk into the lobby at 6659. The hallway ceiling on the second floor is full of cracks. The boiler room makes loud, disruptive sounds, at all hours of the night, waking tenants up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.”
Dow Avenue Tenants Group continues their struggle
After picketing the Peterson CEO’s neighbourhood, the Dow Avenue Tenants Group vowed to return, and also, to turn their attention to the City of Burnaby. City-organized demoviction is in the background of all of the Dow Avenue Tenants Group’s immediate concerns around maintenance, with Mayor Hurley’s Downtown Metrotown development plan threatening tenants with evictions along with a slew of other slumlord practices used by developers like Peterson.
According to Jessica Li, a tenant at 6645 Dow Avenue, “We were hoping that Ben Yeung would be there to receive our letter and demands. He did not answer when we knocked but someone removed our leaflet from the car in the driveway after we left. We want to hold Peterson accountable to their mission statement, and to the law. We have rights and we won’t back down until all of us receive our rights and fair treatment.”
Chris Marino, another tenant of 6659 Dow Avenue said, “Peterson: this is your first warning. This won’t be the last time that we’ll come here or approach other Peterson leadership. Maybe next time we will take the fight to City Hall!”
Appendix: Letter from DATG to Peterson
Dear Mr. Yeung,
Re: 6659/6661 Dow Avenue
We acknowledge that this protest is taking place on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories: For the past 2 and half months tenants at 6659/6661 Dow Avenue have been calling on the landlord and property managers from Peterson, to address the unhealthy living conditions in their building. Instead Peterson has continued to blatantly disregard tenants’ health & wellbeing and worked to create a climate of fear, by locking out tenants and threatening them with eviction.
We present to you our concerns and call for an end to Peterson’s reprehensible behavior and oppressive attacks on tenants, some of whom are living on the margins, are immigrants or who speak English as a second language. In addition, some people have lost jobs or income due to Covid-19. The constant underhanded actions taken by Peterson employees have added exponential levels of stress to an already stressful public health pandemic.
In February 2021, large parts of the ceiling collapsed on the second floor at 6659 Dow Avenue, exposing tenants to mold and asbestos. For an entire month, Peterson ignored tenants’ calls to fix the damage, only agreeing to do so after tenants spoke out publicly in the media. Since then Peterson temporarily relocated some tenants to hotels in downtown Vancouver, others to unlicensed suites in the neighbourhood, while others have nothing but a few sheets of plastic between them and the potentially toxic damage.
While pressure from tenants and the Residential Tenancy Compliance Branch, forced Peterson to begin making repairs, they have gone about it in a way that continues to put tenants’ health at risk. They have not communicated to tenants the results of mold reports or covered up personal belongings in areas where they are exposed to asbestos and mold. They continue to deceive tenants about the presence of asbestos despite at least 3 results detecting the presence of asbestos as well as photographic and video evidence documented by tenants. Peterson has shown nothing disregard for tenants personal space, damaging tenants’ personal property and leaving their suites windows and doors unlocked and unattended, resulting in theft of personal belongings. Finally, Peterson has also not communicated to tenants when they will be able to return and under what conditions. Instead, they are trying to persuade them to sign new leases in other buildings, and move new tenants into their abandoned suites.
In addition to disregarding tenants’ physical health, the landlord has begun to harass and intimidate long-term tenants into moving out early, making it much harder for them to claim any rights under Burnaby’s Tenant Assistance Policy.
Mr. Yeung, we are asking you as the CEO and Executive Director of Peterson and the Director of Dow Beresford Avenue Project GP, to follow through with the promises set out in your corporate mission statement on your website.
We ask that you and your team live up to the principles of your corporate culture by treating everyone you encounter with dignity, respect, and trust. Dignity and respect means concern for the health and well being of persons housed in buildings owned and managed by Peterson. Trust means being transparent and honest about test results that may be putting someone’s health at risk or it may mean putting someone’s mind at ease. Each action taken by Peterson has been to evade, hide, or mislead tenants about what is actually happening and who owns the building.
We demand that you follow through on your promise to act with integrity and deliver accountability amongst yourselves for delivering on your commitments and also to act with honesty and fairness. Integrity is defined in Merriam Webster as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral…values”; a synonym is incorruptibility. From what we have observed, this is not an apt description of actions taken by Peterson in dealing with our building.
We ask that resolve the following issues identified by tenants in the building.
- Please ensure accountability amongst your employees, specifically property managers, Vira Pryhdoko and Sharon Hong. We ask that Peterson follow the rule of law by not illegally locking tenants out, preventing access to their personal property, or to change tenants locks without prior notice. We make this demand pursuant to sections 26(3), 30(1), and (31)(1) of the Residential Tenancy Act.
- Please reimburse tenants in affected units for rent charged since the ceiling fell down (February, March, April, and May if required). We make this demand pursuant to sections 28 and 32 of the RTA.
- Please provide compensation for all tenants in 6659 Dow for the damaged laundry and storage for each day that our laundry has been out of commission since March 15. We make this demand pursuant to section 28(d) of the RTA.
- Please provide storage for any tenants whose belongings have been damaged by mould or water or for those tenants who’s storage has been emptied for mold remediation.
- Please provide professional sanitation for tenants items that have been contaminated in their suites.
- Please sanitize carpets, floors, drapes, heating vents in all affected suites to ensure there are no traces of asbestos or mould.
- Please conduct additional air monitoring tests once all construction has been completed and everything has been sanitized.
- Provide all test results for asbestos and mold.
- Please fix the boiler room and heater. There are loud noises coming from the pipes that are keeping tenants up at night and foul smells emitted from the heating system at times. The heater has broken down at least twice in the last two years.
- Please have the front doors keyed and locked so that only tenants can access the mailbox. Our mailbox has been broken into numerous times.
- Please communicate with us as a group. All communication about the building and repairs should be shared with everyone in the building. Not a select few or only one floor.
- Finally, we ask that you guarantee the tenancy rights and protections under the City of Burnaby’s Tenant Assistance Policy for all long term tenants living in the building. We demand that your property managers stop threatening tenants with eviction and pressuring them to sign new leases.
We remind you that the condition of this building was brought on by landlord neglect and failure to conduct routine maintenance. You bought this building, therefore you bought all the obligations and responsibilities that come with it, just as you have bought the opportunity to earn millions of dollars on the condos you will build on top of our homes.
We are bringing these concerns to your attention because we have continually faced ignorance, obstruction, and a general lack of respect and integrity from those below you. Now we are asking you, as Peterson’s Leader, to step in and demonstrate public accountability and show that your company cares about it’s integrity to the public and to the values and principles as stated in your corporate mission statement. Respect for everyone, means respect for the rule of law, for human rights and basic human dignity, none of which we tenants have been afforded. If you have integrity, then you will see to it that our above demands are met in a timely manner.
We look forward to your response.
Dow Avenue Tenants Group