Our House 

Trials, tribulations and stories of renting in Whistler

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November is a month where everything in Whistler seems to be in a state of flux. The weather is changing, teasing the locals with a clear dusting of snow up on the mountain. Empty restaurants reach out to the masses with affordable dining specials. Summer workers are packing their bags as fresh seasonal workers step off the Greyhound in droves, ready for their big adventure in the wintery wonderland of Whistler.

"It's such an overwhelming place and there's so much to learn about very early on when you first arrive," said Jackie Dickinson, an outreach worker at Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS).

"There's an urgency to find a place to live. Staying at a hotel or hostel isn't really a long-term option. Most people are aware when they get here, or find out very quickly, that there is a really short period of time when there's a massive changeover in housing and extended availability of accommodation and that usually happens around the end of October to the beginning of November."

Long-term Whistler residents rarely deal with the stress of finding housing in the fall anymore, but it was probably not too long ago they were stepping off the Greyhound themselves with little money and even less knowledge of how to get settled in a busy resort town. Every local has a story about their first season, the humble beginning that spurred their lifelong relationship with Whistler.

But how does one not only survive, but thrive during the tricky transition from broke couch surfer to fully fledged employed and housed ski bum? For the last 18 years WCSS has published the Whistler Survival Guide, a free pocket sized booklet with a season-by-season guide on how to get the most out of your stay. There's everything from organizing a tax return to how to best handle a bear encounter. One of the most useful sections of the survival guide is a paragraph titled "Know Your Tenancy Rights," which states the amount of money that landlords can legally ask for when signing a lease and provides online information resources such as Tenants and Resources and Advisory Centre (TRAC) and who to contact if you believe you are being treated unfairly by your landlord.

"People found that that was one piece of the guide that was the most resourceful to them when they first arrived," said Dickinson.

"At one time prior to the Olympics there was a huge housing crunch and landlords had an ability to charge and make agreements that weren't always following the landlord-tenancy guidelines. We did actually have feedback from landlords, they were calling us and saying that people were using (the guide) and questioning them about some of the information that we had included. Some landlords were commenting on the fact that they are charging more than that, that they needed security for the winter and people to pay upfront. The truth is that it's against the law to do that."

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