BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Couple Paid $550 A Month To Live In A Van

10/03/2014 04:05 EDT | Updated 10/03/2014 04:59 EDT

A family is packing their belongings after spending the hot months of summer renting a derelict van at the Pleasant View Hotel and RV Park in Summerland.

The Pleasant View Hotel and RV Park is at 13608 Highway 97 across from the Dairy Queen and south of the Husky gas station. Interior Health documents regarding a problem with the water quality in the pool at Pleasant View indicate the owner is a man named Shanguang Wang, known to the renters as Walter.

Sonja Carr and her boyfriend Josh Muskego said they were living in the Holiday House Motel in Penticton, also owned by Wang and were forced to move when the high season hit.

With nowhere to go and thinking they were moving into a trailer in his RV park, Carr and Muskego were surprised when they realized their choices were either to camp in a tent or move into a van.

Both are currently unemployed and on welfare. With no money to move, they have been living there ever since. To add to the situation, Carr is four months pregnant.

"There's no bathroom, no kitchen, I have an extension cord running (from the hotel) and my tap of water is over here at the side of the motel building. My bathroom I have to share with friends or go to the Husky," Carr said.

Carr said Wang tried to evict them earlier in the summer because they had set up a tarp to create some shade between the van and a nearby swing set.

"He phoned the police and tried to evict me because I put up a tarp. Eventually he told me to just get it off the swing set. It's been a really stressful summer," she said. "You have no idea how hot it has been."

This time, they're being evicted for being behind on rent.

"He wanted $550 a month for it. I paid him $315 so, because I'm behind in my rent, because I didn't think that was worth $550, we're out.

"He said it would erase what I owe if I just moved out, so I said 'Ok, off we go.'" They had to be out by Oct. 1. They say they were never served an official eviction notice.

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Van 'Home' In Summerland, B.C.

Bylaw enforcement officer Gary Ellis was on the scene taking pictures Wednesday. He said he had just become aware of the illegal units.

"I don't know how long they've been here, I don't know the history. I just got this myself," he said. "They have two days to vacate and if we still have unsightly vehicles here, I will have them removed."

On Thursday the District of Summerland said the matter was under investigation, but it was unclear whether any laws or bylaws were being broken by Wang.

Walter Wang said the couple owe him thousands of dollars in unpaid rent dating back to 2013, when they were staying at the Holiday House.

"They stayed in the Holiday House Hotel, and they owed me a couple of thousand dollars from there," he said. "They said they need a place to stay for a short time so I told them $500 a month to put a tent on the Pleasant View lot in Summerland. They still owe me a couple of thousand, they owe me too much."

However, Carr and Muskego are not alone. There is a second unit in the shape of a camper on blocks being rented on the property as well.

The renter declined an interview with Castanet but said she had been living between the camper and a unit in the motel for more than a year.

Brett Riopel is a friend of Carr and Muskego's and said he is living in a derelict RV at the Pleasant View site as well. He said he was told the bathroom in his RV was to be shared between Carr, Muskego and himself.

"That's how he said it was legal, because I have a bathroom in my unit and there's a tap for running water."

John Bubb, director at the Food Bank said there are several people in Summerland forced to live in marginal housing due to a lack of affordable social housing.

"It's something that crosses our desk everyday. We keep track of accommodation," he said. "There are absolutely not many options for people that are on basic welfare or basic disability benefits."

On Thursday Carr and Muskego moved into the Shoreline Resort on Lakeshore Drive in Penticton.

"Oh my god, it's amazing. I haven't slept so good in a long time," Carr said. "That was the best shower. I mean, it's just a hotel, but it's so much better."

This story originally appeared on Castanet and has been reprinted with permission.