The province’s rental task force is calling for an immediate ban on renovictions, a province-wide rent bank for low income British Columbians, and the elimination of a strata corporation’s ability to ban owners from renting out their units.
Renters currently have little recourse once they are told they must leave their unit for the owner to renovate. In some cases renters are forced out for minor upgrades to the home in order for the landlord to put in substantial rent increases.
“One of the most frequently mentioned challenges from renters was unfair evictions, including renovictions and other evictions, based on false claims,” the report reads.
“They told the task force about how stressful it was to live with the constant threat of being forced from their home with too little time to find alternative housing in a challenging rental market.”
The task force found the Residential Tenancy Act needs to be updated to provide clear guidelines on what actions are acceptable during renovations. One of the suggested changes is to allow tenants to remain as long as they are willing to accommodate the renovations.
The task force is also suggesting that evictions should be reserved for the rare instances of serious, major and long-term renovations.
“Many renters called for improvements to the right of first refusal, specifically asking for tenants to be able to return to their units at the same or a similar rent after renovations have been completed,” the report reads.
The task force previously recommended the provincial government change the maximum rent-increase formula. Now landlords are only allowed to increase rent by the rate of inflation and have scrapped the ability of landlords to tack on an additional two per cent annually. The Residential Tenancy Branch can approve “modest rent increases” above inflation.
The task force consulted with renters, landlords, non-profit housing providers and advocates and produced a total of 23 recommendations.
There are 1.5 million renters in British Columbia. The vacancy rate is 1.3 per cent province-wide and, according to the report, below one per cent in Vancouver and Kelowna.
The provincial government has brought in a speculation tax that will punish B.C. homeowners who have multiple properties in affected areas or other Canadians who own property in the province. One of the criticisms of the tax is that it could unfairly punish homeowners who live in stratas where rentals are not allowed.
The government must now review the report but is expected to put in place most, if not all, of the recommendations. The task force consists of NDP MLAs Spencer Chandra Herbert and Ronna-Rae Leonard as well as Green Party MLA Adam Olsen.
“The task force believes that a breakdown in the landlord/renter relationship is often the result of a lack of understanding or a lack of commitment to respecting the rights and responsibilities of each party,” the report reads.
“In some cases, this is deliberate. However, in most cases, this is due to misinformation or lack of knowledge.”
Full list of task force recommendations:
Work with local governments to develop tenant compensation and relocation guidelines in the case of demolition of purpose-built rental to reduce dislocation, and homelessness of affected tenants.
Set a clear timeline for a tenant’s decision on the use of a right of first refusal.
Implement a B.C.-wide rent bank system for low-income people.
Strengthen enforcement of the law, including implementing a clear process for making, investigating and reporting administrative penalty complaints.
Strengthen penalties for breaking the law, including refusal of service for outstanding administrative penalties.
Investigate ways to provide affordable access to bailiff services in smaller and more remote communities.
Investigate other options to increase the repayment rate for damages, non-payment of rent and other storage costs if ordered by the residential tenancy branch.
Increase the availability of currently empty strata housing by eliminating a strata corporation’s ability to ban owners from renting their own strata units.
Maintain rent tied to the renter, not the unit.
Work with local governments to develop, implement and enforce short-term rental rules to better protect long-term rental stock.
Make the residential tenancy branch more responsive, accessible and proactive with more opportunities to learn from and educate landlords and renters on their rights and responsibilities.
Improve fairness and consistency of the residential tenancy branch dispute resolution hearings process by recording all hearings.
Improve procedural fairness by expanding review considerations to include more grounds for review.
Require landlords who are filing for eviction for cause, or for renovation, to provide all evidence with any eviction notice to the affected tenants
If repairs are needed to maintain a rental home and the landlord is refusing to make them in a timely way, have the residential tenancy branch proactively reduce the rent of affected tenants until the repairs are completed.
Allow email as a form of notice of service between landlord and tenants.
Speed up the return of damage deposits to tenants by allowing tenants to make a direct request to the residential tenancy branch for the damage deposit where no damage has been found and reported by the landlord.
Work with the insurance industry to see if rent guarantee insurance, and other improvements to insurance coverage, might be provided for landlords in B.C.
Undertake a review to simplify the regulations relating to a landlord’s obligation to store abandoned personal property.
Ensure it is clear for all landlords and renters where to go to get help for all forms of residential tenancy
Address the specific needs of non-profit housing and supportive housing providers in the residential tenancy act.
Ensure manufactured home park rules are clear and understandable. Clarify what occurs when park rules conflict with lease or contract rules.