Renter frustrated after being forced to pay rent while evacuated

Evacuated renters still pay

Madison Erhardt

A La Casa resident is feeling frustrated after being evacuated from his home off Westside Road twice due to the White Rock Lake fire.

Phil Smolenski says as a renter, he feels he's being asked to foot most of the bill for the evacuation.

"Our homes are potentially burning down and yet we are still expected to pay rent as if everything is fine. Even though our homes are uninhabitable and inaccessible."

Smolenski says he is a long-term renter and has been out of his home for a little under one week. He now staying at The Zed Hotel in Kelowna.

He has been in communication with the property manager, but is still on the hook.

“Our property manager's basic advice was 'hang in there buckos and keep paying rent on the first.' It is deeply concerning because both my roommate and I are from Ontario. Forest fire season is completely new to us. And we are receiving absolutely no help or support.”

On the provincial government's website, the only information provided is what would happen in the event a home was been damaged by fire.

Smolenski says he understands landlords are also in a tight spot, but feels renters are worse off.

“We are in an inherently precarious situation as renters because we don’t have anywhere else to go. Most owners that are renting out their homes, they have somewhere to go. If worst comes to worst and the house burns down, vacancy rates in the Okanagan are so low that it becomes nearly impossible to rent a place."

Smolenski says he's not sure who should bear the burden of paying for renter's housing costs during evacuations, but is speaking out to start a conversation on the subject.

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