Rental act needs tweaking

The Rental Tenancy Act does what it is meant to do, but it needs to do it faster.

Sean McCoey manages several rental units for Delaney Properties in Vernon and he said the act – which some landlords feel gives too much power to a renter – does work, but the process is too slow.

“All we were asking for is just a decrease in the amount of time it takes to get someone out of a unit,” said McCoey, who, along with several other rental managers met with Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster about the matter in the spring. “The system does work, but it is very slow.”

He said only about one in 20 tenants cause problems, and in 10 years, he has only had to hire a sheriff once to deal with rogue renter.

McCoey said when legal action is required, it can get expensive, but those cases are rare.

Foster said he has passed the concerns of local rental managers and relators along to the Minister of Housing and the matter is being looked at.

“We are looking at ways to move that process along without moving the pendulum too far the other way,” said Foster, adding the act was designed to give renters some way to deal with bad landlords, and while bad landlords were rare, they did give all landlords a bad reputation.

He said the same can be said about renters, with the majority of them playing by the rules, but the ones that don't, give all renters a bad reputation.

The Rental Tenancy Act was also discussed at a recent round-table meeting that included Foster, Mayor Akbal Mund, Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold and a variety of stakeholders, including realtors.

During the meeting, Foster heard people are not willing to rent their property because of the act and the amount of time it takes to resolve a dispute.

“It's a delicate balance. We need to encourage people in private sector to build rental facilities,” said Foster.

“One of the things brought up by a realtor was the challenge to get people to rent. One of the issues is how to deal with bad tenants.”

Foster said the matter is being actively looked into by provincial officials.

McCoey said landlords also need to be selective in who they rent to.

“It's all about tenant selection and getting all the paperwork right,” he said. “The tenants do have rights, but we just want to get the process speeded up. We would also like to have the amount of the damage deposit doubled.”


Trade may become tougher

The winds of change are blowing, and they are coming from the south.

With controversial businessman Donald Trump being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, a local federal politician said Canadian officials need to be on their game.

Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold said Canada will have to wait and see exactly what changes will happen under a Trump government, but changes will happen.

The ongoing softwood issue is already causing a lot of uncertainty when it comes to trading south of the border, and that could just be the beginning of trade difficulties for Canada.

“I think it's going to be more challenging for the Canadian government,” said Arnold. “I think Canadian negotiators are going to have to be at the top of their game.”

Arnold pointed out Trump is a successful businessman and is surrounding himself with like-minded people, while expressing some concerns over the Trudeau government, saying the prime minister and much of his cabinet is fairly new and do not have much experience in dealing with foreign trade.

Vipers to face Warriors

Coming off a 5-4 loss to the Merritt Centennials Wednesday at home, the Vernon Vipers will head south to face the West Kelowna Warriors tonight.

The two BC Hockey League rivals will meet at 7 p.m. in Royal LePage Place.

The Vipers are sitting in second place of the Interior Division with 51 points, with the Warriors holding down third spot with 45 points.

The Penticton Vees are leading the division with 63 points, caught in a log jam for second place overall in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies and Chilliwack Chiefs.

Leading the BCHL is the Wenatchee Wild with 70 points.

On Saturday, the Vipers will return to Kal Tire Place when they host Powell River at 6 p.m.

Police seek missing man

Vernon RCMP are requesting the public's assistance in locating a missing man.

Matthew Jay Pollard was last seen Thursday night, on the 2100 block of 32nd Street in Vernon. 
Police recommend that you do not approach him, but call RCMP at 250-545-7171.

Pollard is described as a Caucasion male, 34 years old, five feet 10 inches tall and 181 pounds. He has short, dark hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen wearing a red hoodie and light coloured pants.

Police are concerned for his health and well-being.

Anyone with information on Pollard's whereabouts is urged to contact Vernon RCMP or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). 

Water service cut off

Castanet has received unconfirmed reports that water service was cut off overnight to an area of South Vernon.

Residents of 24th Avenue apparently were without service due to an apparent water main break.

One resident tells Castanet they were without running water as of about 11 p.m.

Castanet will update with more information as it becomes available.

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The overdose fight

The number of illicit drug overdose deaths in Vernon would have been even higher last year if it were not for a provincial naloxone program, according to Kelly Fehr, director of operations for the John Howard Society.

“It's a grave concern for us,” Fehr said of the crisis that has engulfed the province. “What the John Howard Society is doing is training staff in overdose response, specifically with naloxone. We have a naloxone program at all five of our locations.”

Naloxone is administered when an opioid overdose occurs, reversing the opioid's effects.  It is being used throughout the province, which has seen a massive spike in overdoses and deaths in the past year. Many of these deaths have been caused by fentanyl, which can be mixed with other drugs.

Fehr responded to questions just one day after statistics from the BC Coroners Service showed that Vernon had 13 illicit drug overdose deaths in 2016.

“Last year we had two overdoses that required naloxone administration and one this year already,” Fehr said of the society's facilities which include area shelters. “There would have been more deaths in Vernon if that program didn't exist.”

The JHS is working closely with Interior Health to ensure there are follow up appointments with people who have overdosed.

“When B.C. issued its state of emergency around the problem, the health authorities were required to do a minimum of six follow-ups with a person who had overdosed. When a person is homeless, this is extremely hard to do.

“If someone survives an overdose, specifically fentanyl, we'll try to encourage them to do the follow-ups with Interior Health.”

Fehr said JHS staff will do the follow-up if the person refuses to seek medical help.

“When someone overdoses, their risk of death is significantly higher (if they overdose again),” Fehr said, explaining why the followups are so crucial. “The risk of overdose is exponentially higher if drugs are still in the system. That's too many chemicals for the body.”

Fehr also expressed his concern with the spread of fentanyl which is being mixed with other street drugs.

“We are very concerned that people are actually adding it. It's not just in heroin or cocaine or methamphetamines. It's in pot. They are going to these lengths to get people hooked on drugs.”

16 years of giving

Every week for the past 16 years, Jake and Mary Spoor have been giving away flowers.

The couple have been operating the Vernon Flower Shop for the past 40 years and since the Vernon Hospice House opened, they have quietly donated a vase full of flowers to every patient, every week.

Jake estimates they have given away more than 10,000 vase bundles of flowers.

“It has quite an impact on the people and their families in the last days they spend with us,” said Ruth Edwards, hospice house executive director.

“The residents and their families are going through a difficult time and when they arrive, there are fresh flowers in their rooms, there are fresh flowers at the desk.

“They have given so generously since 2001. It’s a lovely contribution from the community.”

And giving back to the community is why Jake and Mary do it.

“It's just to brighten up the room a little bit and say, 'Hey people are thinking about you' and just to cheer them up and their family,” said Jake.

The flower shop never sought any advertising and it was hospice house officials that tweeted about the acts of kindness that have been going on for years.

Each vase contains a number of flowers, usually made up of roses or carnations.

The flower shop even finds out if the flowers will be put in a room with a male or female so they can make an arrangement appropriate for the person's gender.

Jake, who is a third generation florist – his daughter is active in the business as well – said he has no plans on stopping any time soon.

“The nurses and the staff really enjoy it too and obviously the patients are happy with it and the family is. It's just something you try and support the community with,” said Jake.

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