Landlords, renters disagree on future of tenancy laws as rental task force gets underway

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A new provincial task force is touring British Columbia all month, trying to bring together both sides of the tenant-landlord debate and modernize B.C.’s tenancy laws.

‘Both groups want security, both want fairness,’ says head of task force

The price of rental housing has drastically increased in parts of the province. (David Horemans/CBC)

A new provincial task force is touring British Columbia all month, trying to bring together both sides of the tenant-landlord debate and modernize B.C.’s tenancy laws.

Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert is heading the rental housing task force, which launched on Monday in Maple Ridge.

“What I’ve found is that one group makes one recommendation, another group makes a slightly different version of the recommendation and another says do something else entirely,” Chandra Herbert said.

At the end of the day, though, Chandra Herbert said he believes there are similarities in both renters’ and landlords’ goals.

“The themes are generally the same: both groups want security, both want fairness, both want it to be affordable for them,” he told Laura Lynch, guest host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

Throughout June, the task force will be hearing from both sides and seeking public consultation on rental issues in meetings across 10 B.C. communities.

The Vancouver Tenants Union formed last spring in response to a growing number of renters who say they fear eviction or being priced out of their homes. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

2 sides of the same issue

The Vancouver Tenants Union has a few suggestions of what needs to change.

The group sent 50 recommendations to the task force on changes it wants to see implemented.

“The absolute number one thing we are looking at is vacancy control,” said Sydney Ball, a member of the union’s steering committee.

“What that means is a kind of rent control where we limit rent increases to the annual allowable amount so no raising the rent in between tenants or landlords.”

Tying rent increases to the unit rather than the tenant makes it more difficult for “renovictions,” kicking out a renter under the guise of doing repairs.

“If you can’t jack the rent up between a tenant, then you disincentivize all evictions for profit motives,” Ball said.

The average rent for a one-bedroom in Vancouver is in the range of about $2,000 per month and the average two-bedroom is north of $3,000 per month. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

David Hutniak, the CEO of Landlord B.C., disagrees.

“The Residential Tenancy Act is really not the problem in this province,” he said. “The last thing we need is legislation that is going to discourage landlords from investing in the homes.”

Instead, Hutniak argued, more purpose built rentals are needed to target low vacancy rates.

“The notion of preventing or eliminating the opportunity to consider going to a market on a turnover of tenants basically undermines the entire economics of providing market rental housing,” he said.

Looking forwards

Chandra Herbert said issues of both vacancy rates and renovictions will be addressed by the task force.

“We need to make it so that landlords have to compete for renters as oppose to the other way around,” he said. “Right now, renters are scrambling to find anything and that makes them very vulnerable.”

The task force is expected to come up with recommendations by the fall of this year.

With files from The Early Edition