B.C. boosts enforcement on rentals

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Government has not actually committed to ban rental restrictions in strata buildings, and Housing Minister Selina Robinson would not do so Wednesday.

The government is boosting enforcement against bad tenants and landlords in the rental market, but not immediately acting on a recommended ban on rental restrictions in strata units. Kim Pemberton / Vancouver Sun

VICTORIA — B.C. is boosting education and enforcement against bad tenants and landlords, in response to recommendations from a rental task force.

But the government has yet to commit to the task force’s major recommendation to ban rental restrictions in strata buildings, instead punting the issue until next year, at least.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Wednesday she’s moving immediately to boost public education on tenancy rules and launch a new investigative unit within the Residential Tenancy Branch to probe serious complaints and levy fines and penalties against both landlords and tenants who repeatedly flout the rules.

“We are committed to addressing all of the task force recommendations in a phased approach that will result in better housing security for renters as well as landlords, clear guidelines for everyone — particularly on renovictions — and a rental system that is able to support many positive landlord-rental relationships we do have,” said Robinson.

That new investigative already has 21 open cases for its five-person team. Unit head Scott McGregor said the team can levy fines of up to $5,000 a day, register those amounts with the B.C. Supreme Court as debts and refer the penalties to the Ministry of Finance for followup.

“Administrative penalties are definitely something we looked at for a long time and we’re happy it’s going to address both parties,” said Hunter Boucher, director of operations at LandlordBC. The organization representing landlords feels the changes are “fair and balanced,” said Boucher.

The rental task force, headed by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert, filed a report with 23 recommendations to improve the rental market in December. Government has already acted on some issues, such as capping annual rental allowances to the rate of inflation and boosting protections for renovictions.

However, Robinson said only that “there’s still some more work to do” on the recommendation to forbid strata apartment and condos from banning rentals, in a move to help boost the rental supply amid a rental crisis in areas of Metro Vancouver.

“We have some more work to do to understand the full implications of what that direction would look like,” she said, including consultation with the strata community.

Government has not actually committed to ban rental restrictions in strata buildings, and Robinson would not do so Wednesday.

However, the idea has also come up as part of her government’s speculation tax, with the province granting only a two-year exemption to people with second homes to avoid the tax if they cannot rent their units because of strata rules. The short exemption years, 2018 and 2019, raised speculation government would ban rental restrictions by 2020.