Residents at a Victoria apartment complex are worried.

“You’re going to send everyone into a home!” said resident John O’Connor, who gathered outside his apartment building in James Bay on Simcoe Street, with around 20 of his neighbours.

They thought they’d only be paying a 2. 5 per cent increase next year after the province scaled back from the possible 4.5 per cent. But they say their landlord has found a loophole.

“I think it’s a payback for the rent increase not allowing 4.5, so they’re going to get the money out of us somehow,” said Barb Barton. Their landlord is hiking the price of storage and parking, more than double the current rates.

“It’s really disappointing seeing landlords try to sidestep rent control laws by using mechanisms like this,” said Emily Rogers, legal advocate with Together Against Poverty Society.

In B.C., parking and storage fees aren’t legally considered rent. But, the apartment building’s management company says these fee increases aren’t a roundabout rent hike.

“The fee increase for the parking areas has been in the works long before there was discussion about changes about the rental rate,” said Jaime Tiampo, director of Itziar Management.

“If you take a look, we haven’t changed [parking] rates on those buildings for 15 to 20 years.”

Many of the residents here live on fixed incomes, and they say the changes are unaffordable.

“It means less food! Everything that happens means less food, less prescriptions!” said Jeannie Good.

But the landlord says, as it is, he can’t afford the cost of doing business.

“We always feel for tenants on fixed income and limited income streams,” said Tiampo.

“But, the fact of the matter for pricing and costs for operating the business have all gone up substantially over the last few years.”

In a statement, Landlord BC says that because of the lower allowable rent increase for 2019, landlords will be left with no option to reduce costs or adjust additional fees like monthly parking to keep their businesses viable in the future.

But the tenants are asking for the landlords to be gentle and are calling on the government to step in with more controls so the market doesn’t break the backs of those most vulnerable.

Kori Sidaway