Landlord using loophole to request rent hikes of up to 43%

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Tenants in a Vancouver neighbourhood are fighting back after their landlord attempted to increase rental prices by nearly 50 per cent
CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, March 13, 2017 

Tenants of an apartment building in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood are fighting back as their landlord attempts to hike some rents hundreds of dollars a month using a B.C. government loophole.

The 13-unit building, located at 1565 Harwood St., is like many in the neighbourhood – small, decades old and brimming with character.

But the rent increases being sought by the owner, Immobiliere Canada Investment Ltd., are anything but ordinary, with some tenants facing hikes of up to 43 per cent.

“For our family, our rent would go up a total of $430 a month,” said Amanda Burke, who lives in the property with her husband and two young children.

“That is money that’s not going into our retirement. That’s money that’s not going into education for our children. That’s money that’s not going to take that road trip to visit my dad in Saskatchewan.”

Burke and her husband moved into the building 10 years ago. Their rent has increased gradually since, from $1,550 to $1,750, but they are now facing a sudden jump to $2,180.

“You can’t plan for that,” Burke said. “We all understand that owning a building is a business… but there’s also a value in long-term tenants, those who stay and create community and stability.”

The low-rise building, built in 1930, was just valued at $4.91-million – a jump of nearly $1-million over the past year – according to BC Assessment.

Spender Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for the neighbourhood, said the owner is attempting to use a loophole that was introduced by the BC Liberals over a decade ago.

The law allows landlords to seek higher-than-normal rent increases if tenants are paying below market rates. Normally, owners can only hike rents by two per cent plus inflation per year.

“I’ve introduced legislation three times now to delete the geographic area increase clause. It’s an unfair clause which is just about gauging renters for more rent,” Chandra Herbert said Sunday.

Chandra Herbert said tenants have successfully fought against such hikes before, but others have lost.

“That’s why this clause needs to be deleted. There’s no reason these good people should have to fight to stay in their home,” he said.

The landlord didn’t respond to requests for comment from CTV News, but B.C.’s Ministry of Housing issued a statement suggesting the province intends to maintain the status quo.

“No changes are planned to existing legislation as the current approach balances the needs of landlords and tenants,” the ministry said.

Landlord BC, an industry organization for individual owners to management companies, said though the rental increase application might sound worrying to some residents of the city, it is rarely used.

CEO David Hutniak said when applications are made, they can also take a long time to implement because of the arbitration process. He adds such applications are rarely approved by the Residential Tenancy Board.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Scott Roberts and Penny Daflos