Preventing renovictions, extending rent freeze to benefit tenants

THE Province announced on Monday that legislative changes, if passed, will extend the rent freeze to December 31.

The changes will also cap future rent increases to inflation, stop illegal renovictions and make the dispute resolution process better for tenants and landlords.

“The changes mean no more tenants will face eviction notices for phoney renovations that were never going to happen,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West-End, on behalf of David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “By putting an end to this kind of bullying behaviour, meant to drive out long-term tenants and jack up the rent, we’re protecting renters and supporting rental housing providers who do proactive maintenance of their rental homes.”

To protect tenants, landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) before they can terminate a tenancy agreement for the purpose of renovating. In addition, landlords will not be able to end tenancies for renovations that are not substantial or do not require the rental unit to be vacant. These changes, if passed, will come into effect on July 1, and are in addition to earlier protections introduced in 2018.

With the Province having already introduced and extended a rent freeze during COVID-19, the new legislative changes to freeze rents until the end of the year will mean all renters who have received notice of a rent increase that would have taken effect after March 30, 2020, and before January 1, 2022, can disregard those notices. Starting in 2022 and beyond, rent increases will be capped at the rate of inflation, fulfilling a commitment by government.

“We know many people who rent in our communities have been challenged by high rents,” Chandra Herbert said. “That’s why our government cut rent increases almost in half by capping them to inflation, and then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we stopped rent increases altogether and now we’re extending that to the end of 2021. We know there’s more to do, but with these new changes, we’re continuing to make progress.”

Prior to 2017, the maximum allowable rent increase was as high as 4.3%, well above inflation.

The proposed changes are also a further step to address the Rental Housing Task Force (RHTF) recommendations. Other proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act and the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act include:

* expanding the scope of administrative penalties the Compliance and Enforcement Unit can levy, including for giving false or misleading information in a dispute resolution proceeding or investigation;

* improving fairness in the residential tenancy dispute resolution process by expanding grounds for the RTB to review arbitrator decisions; and

* clarifying language in the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act to address conflicts between park rules and tenancy agreements.

Andrew Sakamoto, Executive Director, Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, said: “Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre supports the decision to have landlords apply to the RTB before issuing an eviction notice for renovations or repairs. It is common for landlords to illegally renovict tenants without the necessary permits required by law or for minor and cosmetic improvements that do not require vacant possession of the rental unit. Rather than forcing tenants to dispute these types of meritless eviction notices, we are pleased that landlords will now have to go through an application process before issuing such notices in the first place. If implemented properly, this change should improve security of tenure and reduce unlawful tenant displacement across B.C.”

David Hutniak, Chief Executive Officer, LandlordBC, said: “The RHTF recommendations are a road map for positive change. LandlordBC believes that encouraging continued investment to prolong or sustain the useful life of a rental unit or building is essential. We further believe that making the landlord proceed in this proposed manner, whereby legitimate cases where vacant possession is necessary and appropriate are adjudicated up front, will ensure work is undertaken in good faith, thereby mitigating what has at times been an unnecessarily confrontational process. What will be critical is that the RTB establish a robust application and implementation process and that arbitrators assigned to these cases possess the necessary specialized knowledge to assess the technical nature of the proposed work.”

Quick Facts

* If passed by the legislature, these changes will fulfil a majority of the recommendations from the RHTF’s final report.

* Previous action to support renters and address the task force’s recommendations include:
– closing the fixed-term lease loophole;

– eliminating geographic rent hikes;

– bringing in a new Compliance and Enforcement Unit; and

– introducing initial steps to strengthen protections for renters facing “renovictions” and “demovictions.”

– Requiring landlords to apply to the RTB to end a tenancy for renovations or repairs is similar to the process in Ontario.