Zora Hlevnjak faces eviction from her Sidney apartment after depositing money raised from empty cans and donations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

B.C. woman refuses to pay overdue rent based on income raised collecting empty cans

Portion that Zora Hlevnjak pays for subsidized rent went up after she reported more of her income

A 76-year-old woman in the Victoria area who collects empty cans to supplement her pension faces eviction after her rent was raised to include her income from the cans.

Zora Hlevnjak, a familiar figure in the community of Sidney, will be evicted on Jan. 21 from her subsidized housing unit because of failure to pay $1,087 for three months’ worth of rent following a rent increase.

Beacon Community Services, the organization that operates Wakefield Manor, raised Hlevnjak’s rent to 30 per cent of her income after she deposited money raised from collecting empty cans and donations from passersby.

Hlevnjak said she has formally challenged having to pay the rent, arguing the money from cans and donations does not qualify as income, and that she does not benefit from it because she sends it to her family in Croatia.

“I knew [the rules], but my mind doesn’t allow me to accept to pay [back-rent] from empties and from people that give me money for food,” she told Black Press Media over the course of two interviews. “I didn’t spend it and I don’t even have that money. I sent it to my people.”

Hlevnjak said she gets about $1,500 from the federal government through various pensions, and routinely sends money, including can deposits, to family members in Croatia every year since she came to Canada in 1966.

RELATED: More people are being evicted from subsidized housing in Victoria, experts say

A friend who accompanied her on the interview suggested she start looking after herself rather than others in a distant country, especially with rent due.

But Hlevnjak said her landlords don’t deserve the money. “They didn’t work hard for it. It was [a] gift for me.”

Tim O’Brien, who manages the building where she has lived since 2004, said tenants in subsidized housing must pay 30 per cent of their income towards rent, which is the affordable standard throughout the province

“We didn’t raise the rent. She just started to report her proper income,” he said, adding that tenants must also submit income tax statements, bank statements, and Service Canada statements each year to establish the 30-per-cent portion.

“Please understand – it’s not my choice to evict her,” O’Brien said. “We are not in the eviction business. We are in the accommodation business, helping and serving those who are less fortunate and who require subsidized housing.”

RELATED: New report finds many Sidney residents struggle with housing affordability

Hlevnjak says she blames herself for her situation. “I stupidly put in bank because I was afraid of fire and thieves.”

She repeated that she hasn’t used any money from cans or passersby. “I didn’t even spent five cents on my birthday,” said the woman, whose clothing hardly suggests a life in the lap of luxury.

She also acknowledged that she has trouble remembering things and admits to feeling stressed by the situation.

But her defiant tone and decision to seek legal support suggests the issue is far from settled.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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

Just Posted

Aldergrove newspaper boys brave the snow

Aldergrove Star carriers are doing their best to deliver the news to you

Young curlers ready for national tournament in Langley

The teams practiced on Friday in preparation for the official start Saturday

Not over yet: Mixture of snow, freezing rain on way as winter storm tapers in Lower Mainland

Environment Canada releases weather alert for Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley

WEATHER: Another wintry storm to hit Langley

Some Friday morning University classes are cancelled due to weather conditions

VIDEO: Contest winner pays it forward in Langley

Jan Janzen will share her $200 prize with the food bank, homeless shelter, and grandkids

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Should winter tires be mandatory in the Lower Mainland?

ICBC dial-a-claims go up as winter storm takes toll

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Abbotsford bank ATM robbery thwarted by woman standing her ground

Police arrest alleged known robber running down South Fraser wearing balaclava

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Most Read