Trevor Jenkinson (left) of the West Kootenay Landlord’s Society with Mike McGaw, who advocates for renters at Nelson Community Services. Jenkinson: “Mike and I are not adversaries. We actually work together and we solve issues regarding tenancy problems if they come up.” McGaw: “Yeah, it’s a community.” Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Trevor Jenkinson (left) of the West Kootenay Landlord’s Society with Mike McGaw, who advocates for renters at Nelson Community Services. Jenkinson: “Mike and I are not adversaries. We actually work together and we solve issues regarding tenancy problems if they come up.” McGaw: “Yeah, it’s a community.” Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson landlords and tenants both face challenges

Rental manager and tenant advocate mostly agree on the stresses facing landlords and tenants

Third in a series about renting in Nelson. The first two installments can be found here and here.

Trevor Jenkinson thinks the main reason for the the city’s zero rental vacancy rate is the “toxic environment that landlords are operating in these days.”

He is the president of the West Kootenay Landlord’s Society, as well as being a realtor and a property manager with about 100 tenants on many properties.

He hastens to say that only a few tenants are bad. But bad ones are so hard to evict, he says, that it’s hardly worth being a landlord.

“A lot of landlords have packed it in,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘I’m selling my rental property. I’m not renting out my suite in my house any more. I’m just going to keep it for myself and have family visit and things like that.’ Our private market rental stock is decreasing.’”

Why does he think tenants are hard to evict?

It takes too long to get a hearing if there is a dispute, he says. Disputes about evictions, rent payments, and other issues are handled by arbitrators at the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch.

Also, there were no evictions allowed during COVID-19 for a period of time until June 24 and Jenkinson says some tenants took advantage of this.

“There were a surprising number of tenants that simply quit paying rent and started misbehaving,” he says.

Landlords need help

Jenkinson also thinks landlords should be allowed to rent for a trial period of a few months. He calls this a fixed-term tenancy, and he says the province outlawed this a few years ago, ostensibly because some landlords were using it as an excuse to raise rents beyond the allowed limit, a problem that could be solved without banning this type of tenancy, he says.

A fixed-term tenancy would be a kind of probation period, after which the tenancy ends but could be resumed if both landlord and tenant wish.


Also, Jenkinson says rent restriction rules are too limiting. It used to be that an annual increase could not exceed the cost of living index plus two per cent, but the provincial government has removed the two per cent.

“That makes it harder and harder for landlords to maintain their properties,” Jenkinson says. “Insurance rates have shot up in the last year 20-to-30 per cent … property taxes go up, that kind of thing. And yet the landlords are still expected to maintain their properties.”

Tenants need help

Mike McGaw thinks many tenants need help being tenants, especially when there are virtually no rentals to be had.

In his job as homelessness prevention co-ordinator at Nelson Community Services, he supports low-income people who are facing extra challenges with housing. He has a rent subsidy program for people who are in transition, such as leaving the hospital, leaving prison or some other facility, youth who are aging out of the foster care system, and women who are leaving violence, as well as Indigenous people.

He says many of his clients are employed.

McGaw understands Jenkinson’s perspective that the law is weighted in favour of tenants, but he says tenants often tell him the opposite. He says the most persistent example is damage deposits.

“You get a lot of people who pay a damage deposit, they don’t do any damage, and they don’t get a damage deposit back at the end. That’s such a common thing.”

But McGaw has an even-handed approach to his work in what he calls a flawed system.

“I’ve known some landlords who work the system,” he says. “And I’ve known some tenants who work the system.”

He says high purchase prices, high rental prices, low incomes, and lack of tenancy literacy all inspire both landlords and tenants to seek him out.

“I’ll talk them through the landlord-tenancy process. I do that for landlords as well as tenants – the rights and responsibilities of both parties.”

He says those rights and responsibilities are not a mystery. They are all there in black and white in the Residential Tenancy Act, in online government fact sheets, and on a government hotline. But some people need help finding these and interpreting them, and he does a lot of that.


McGaw has a core group of 15-to-30 tenant clients at any given time, whom he works with sometimes for months, checking in on them, discussing issues with them and their landlord.

“Some people don’t need that,” he says. “But some people really do. I mentor tenants in how to be a tenant, and teach them how to market themselves as a tenant.”

He says some landlords are willing to take a chance on a high-needs person if they know they have McGaw backing them up.

“They want to know that there’s a support person in place, someone who will check in on them.”

How to market yourself

McGaw says the method of finding a rental has changed over time from classified ads, then to sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, and now almost exclusively to a variety of local Facebook groups where landlords and tenants advertise themselves.

“I saw a rental on Facebook today, $1,200 dollars, just out of town,” McGaw says, “and it had been up for half an hour and already had 26 comments on it, people inquiring, that’s one per minute. It would be nothing for someone to get 100 applicants.”

For tenants, advertising on one of those pages is a good opportunity to attract the attention of a landlord, he says. And for landlords looking for tenants, the Facebook groups are a great way to shop for a tenant.

“[The landlord] can click on their Facebook page. Are the first three pictures of them partying? Or are the first three pictures of them hiking in the mountains with their dog?”

He says for landlords this is a good alternative to advertising a rental because then the landlord “doesn’t get 100 phone calls.”

The Facebook group Nelson BC Canada Homes and Rooms to Rent has 13,500 members. West Kootenay Available Rentals has 3,900, with 500 new members in the last two months, according to McGaw. The group For Rent in the Kootenays, which McGaw administers, has gone from 1,300-to-5,000 members in the past year.

More renters, fewer units

Although many of his clients are not on social assistance, McGaw reminds that people who are on it get $375 per month for shelter and utilities.

“Some people spend their whole income on rent and use soup kitchens and the food bank. Or they’ve got a little side hustle, whatever that may be, bottles and cans, but that leaves you no room for making mistakes.”

Asked if there are more renters or fewer rental spaces these days, or both, McGaw says, “I think it’s about more people wanting to be here. And I would say there’s fewer low income rentals. You know, gentrification. Nelson has gotten more affluent over the years. There’s fewer houses where young people can rent a room, there’s fewer basement suites that not are all turned into really nice basement suites.”

Jenkinson says there are fewer spaces and more people wanting to rent them.

“Nelson has managed to re-invent itself from the mill town it was in the 70s to a destination for people to move to,” he says. “In many ways, Nelson is a victim of its own success. This week alone, I have received five inquiries from people who are seeking to move to Nelson from elsewhere for a myriad of different reasons. As you might expect, I have no vacancies whatsoever.”

And there will continue to be fewer rental spaces unless the landscape becomes more accommodating to landlords, he says.

“We have lost something on the order of 30 private market rental units in the last couple of years, and there will be more being lost soon if some landlords I know follow through with what they have told me.”

Jenkinson says the new housing provided by BC Housing through Nelson CARES (on Front Street and on Nelson Avenue) will help seniors and people with disabilities. But the situation, he adds, will remain acute for everyone else, although those new properties might open up some long-term rentals for others.

As for whether short-term rentals (Airbnb and other platforms) are stealing long-term rental spaces, both agree that it’s hard to say because many existing short-term rentals may have never been rented long-term and many have been built specifically for use as short-term rentals.


Have short-term rentals edged out long-term rentals in Nelson’s downtown?

Are there more renters in Nelson than before, or fewer rental units, or both?

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pedestrian looks over a vigil set up in Nelson on Friday to mark National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which is held Dec. 6 to commemorate the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre that killed 14 women and injured 10 others. Photo: Tyler Harper
Demand for safe space increases in the fall at Nelson’s transition house

The eight-bed service for women and children fleeing domestic violence has been full since Oct. 1

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Interior Health says Salmo’s COVID-19 cases have been contained. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Interior Health: Salmo’s COVID-19 cases are contained

Every person who tested positive has recovered

Pitchfork Eatery’s staff pose with its two Burger Month trophies. L-R: Tao Measures, Michael Hall, head chef Josh Mateschitz, Prabh Gill, John Rutherford, Ben Handly. Photo: Laura Gellatly
Pitchfork Eatery, Kurama Sushi voted Burger Month winners

Pitchfork won two awards while Kurama won Most Original

Nelson schools have stopped recycling anything except cardboard because they are unable to separate recycling to the satisfaction of Waste Management Inc., the contractor that picks up and ships recycling. Photo: School District 8
Nelson schools cut back on recycling

Recycling pick-up contractor says there is too much contamination in the bins

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Most Read