BC MLA questions why recommendations removed from report on penalties for bad landlords

Posted in: , , ,
NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End Spencer Chandra Herbert outside his constituency office on Denman Street on Mar. 31, 2016.
Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

A Vancouver MLA got an angry response from the housing minister Thursday when questioned in legislature about why recommendations were removed from a report on the government’s review of administrative penalties involving bad landlords.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert explained that he recently did a freedom-of-information request about the review of administrative penalties for bad landlords and received documents showing recommendations were made in the review’s draft report.

He said the recommendations were redacted in the FOI documents.

“When the review was released [last month], there were no recommendations at all,” Chandra Herbert said.

The MLA raised the matter Thursday with Housing Minister Rich Coleman during question period in the legislature in Victoria.

“He didn’t really respond to me,” Herbert said. “He said I was obnoxious.”

He believes the question deserves a government response.

“I want to see the system fixed for tenants and landlords,” Herbert said.

The ministry issued a statement Thursday, saying the administrative penalty review was never intended to include recommendations, but after the review was completed, the Residential Tenancy Branch presented the minister with a decision note, which included recommendations for next steps and the minister’s decisions are now being implemented.

“That decision note was outside of the scope of the FOI request,” the ministry said.

Administrative penalties, Herbert said, are supposed to be used against bad landlords and tenants who repeatedly break the law, but the review found only one administrative penalty has been issued between 2012 and 2015.

The single case involved a $115,000 penalty against a Surrey landlord who repeated failed to fix a building and put the safety of tenants at risk.

In the end, the landlord wasn’t forced to pay the penalty, Herbert said.

“The government allowed the company to fix the problems and wrote off the fine,” he said. “What kind of penalty is that to perpetual law-breakers?”

Herbert first raised the issue last year, saying the penalties meant to protect renters from bad landlords have proven to be toothless.

At that time, Coleman said the threat of administrative penalties work as a deterrent.

“I believe bad landlords and tenants should face penalties, and not be let off scott free to muck up someone else’s life.” Herbert said Thursday.

“I have people who say landlords are perpetually jacking up rents and doing [illegal] evictions. One bad landlord can do this to many, many people over time.”