In addressing the recommendations of the provincial Rental Housing Task Force, the B.C. government is moving ahead immediately with increased public education and bolstered enforcement to better protect the rights of both renters and landlords.
“To make renting work better for everyone, we need to make sure both renters and landlords know their rights under the law and have a place to go when there’s an issue with those rights,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Housing is the foundation of people’s lives. We want to create a rental market where there are no surprises, renters and landlords are treated fairly and there is better security for both sides.”
All of the task force recommendations will be addressed through three phases. Immediate Phase 1 actions focus on better public education, enhanced enforcement and improved co-ordination with local governments to address specific issues in their communities, including renovictions.
* Public Education:
The goal is to provide improved awareness for renters and landlords on their rights and responsibilities, which will reduce the number of cases ending up in arbitration. This enhanced public education will be supported through new funding to Landlord BC and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. Additional public education will focus on rules around renovictions, including new policy guidelines introduced last year, to help clarify the many situations when ending a tenancy would be unnecessary or illegal, and the limited situations when a rental unit needs to be vacant for renovations.
Responding to concerns, the Province has created a new compliance and enforcement unit within the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to investigate complaints and take action against landlords and renters who are repeat or serious offenders. The new team has 21 active investigations and recently issued its first administrative penalty against a landlord.
A new local government liaison position has been created within the RTB to help resolve issues that involve a role for both local government and the RTB, such as illegal renovictions and demovictions. The position will support communities in tackling the challenges unique to their situation.
“Renters and landlords told us that, in many cases, problems could have been avoided if people had known their rights and responsibilities,” said MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, chair of the Rental Housing Task Force and Premier’s advisor on residential tenancy. “They also told us enforcement was key, as there are people who knowingly break the laws, and only strong enforcement will stop them. I’m glad to see the minister has heard these concerns and taken action to increase enforcement of the law, improve access to the Residential Tenancy Branch to ensure people know their rights and responsibilities, closed loopholes that were driving up rents and evictions, and capped annual rent increases to the rate of inflation. I’m glad to hear the minister is now working to make further improvements to make renting more fair and secure for everyone.”
Building on the Phase 1 actions underway, Phase 2 work will include further actions by the end of 2019. Recommendations that require legislative changes, additional resources, stakeholder consultations or policy work, such as rental restrictions in strata units, will be considered as part of Phase 3, with actions to come in 2020.
These steps build on long-overdue investments in the RTB that are beginning to address service concerns reported by the task force. For example, call wait times are now down to five minutes, well below the 45-minute average in 2017. The branch has also started recording information calls and is developing a new case management system to streamline its processes.
“Housing security for British Columbians is a priority the BC Green Party shares with the provincial government, and people across the province are looking for leadership in helping them meet the challenges in the rental system,” said MLA Adam Olsen, member of the Rental Housing Task Force. “I am proud of the work that the task force has done to present recommendations to improve our rental system, and I look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure that much-needed improvements take place to benefit both renters and landlords.”
Action on housing and ensuring fairness for tenants and landlords are shared priorities between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
David Hutniak, chief executive officer, LandlordBC –
“LandlordBC is excited to support the Province in its efforts to educate landlords about their rights and responsibilities as, in our experience, education is the best way to ensure secure, positive tenancies for both tenants and landlords. LandlordBC looks forward to working with the Province to balance the impacts of renovations on renters with investing in the health and safety of the critically important homes we provide B.C. families.”
Andrew Sakamoto, executive director, Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) –
“TRAC is extremely pleased to receive this funding. As a provincial leader in tenant education, we plan to use these funds to develop quality legal resources and deliver face-to-face services to some of our province’s most vulnerable populations. Tenants will have a chance to learn about their rights and responsibilities under BC’s Residential Tenancy Act, particularly the rules around illegal renovictions that can threaten security of tenure. Proactive education, along with increased rental supply and enhanced legal protections, will go a long way towards addressing B.C.’s current rental housing crisis.”
* The task force was appointed by Premier John Horgan in April 2018 with Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End, as chair; and Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox, as members. They presented their final recommendations to government in December.
* These latest steps build on actions government has taken over the past year-and-a-half to bring balance to B.C.’s rental housing system:
* enhancing the provincial Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program and Rental Assistance Program (RAP) to benefit 35,000 households, including 3,200 newly eligible families and seniors throughout British Columbia;
* limiting annual rent increases to the inflation rate;
* closing the fixed-term lease loophole and eliminating the geographic rent increase clause;
* strengthening protections for manufactured home park tenants;
* introducing stronger protection for renters from renovations or demolitions;
* increasing strata fines to discourage unwanted short-term rental activity;
* providing $6.8 million over three years to the Residential Tenancy Branch to improve services; and
* introducing rental zoning legislation to give local governments the ability to preserve and increase the overall rental supply.
* The Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC, includes $10 million for a provincial rent bank to help low-income renters with short-term loans. Creating a rent bank was a recommendation of the Rental Housing Task Force.
Learn more about services and improvements to the Residential Tenancy Branch:
Read the full Rental Housing Task Force recommendations and What We Heard report:
For a traditional Chinese translation, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NR_RHTF_Action_TraditionalChinese.pdf
For a Punjabi translation, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/NR_RHTF_Action_Punjabi.pdf
Three-phased approach to Rental Housing Task Force recommendations
The Rental Housing Task Force’s recommendations will be addressed using a phased approach to allow quick action on recommendations that can be implemented immediately, while enabling thoughtful analysis on more complex recommendations that may require more time or changes to legislation:
Phase 1: Recommendations already underway or complete:
* The Province took immediate action on early recommendations by cutting the annual allowable rent increase by 2%, limiting it to inflation. The next step is working with landlords on exemptions to allow for significant building maintenance costs.
* To stop illegal or unnecessary renovictions, government is taking steps to ensure renters and landlords know their rights and responsibilities. A local government liaison position will also help co-ordinate efforts with local governments to address illegal renovictions in particularly hard-hit communities.
* These steps build on the recent changes to the Residential Tenancy Act to provide better protections to renters by:
* providing renters more time to find alternative housing in case of a demolition or renovation that requires the unit to be vacant;
* providing renters with more time to dispute a notice to end a tenancy for demolition or renovation;
* increasing the amount of compensation paid to a former renter if the planned renovation/demolition is not completed following the end of a tenancy. This also applies to situations where the landlord falsely uses a “vacate” clause to move into the unit, but then rents to someone else; and
* including a first right of refusal for renters in multi-unit buildings who are evicted because of renovation or repair to return to the unit. This will help address misuse of renovictions by allowing renters to confirm renovations did occur.
* The Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, TogetherBC, includes $10 million for a provincial rent bank, an action recommended by the task force, to help low-income renters with short-term loans.
* A new compliance and enforcement unit is investigating complaints and taking action, including levying penalties, against serious or repeat offenders.
* Increased investments in the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) have resulted in significant improvements to wait times, including:
* phone calls: five minutes (down from over 45 minutes);
* emergency hearings – four weeks (down from over 6.5 weeks);
* urgent hearings – six weeks (down from over eight weeks); and
* Monetary hearings – 14 weeks (down from over 25 weeks)
* The RTB is being proactive and responsive to the need for better education for renters and landlords on their rights and responsibilities through funding for public education by Landlord BC and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
Phase 2: Further recommendations to be addressed by the end of 2019:
* The Province will start working with local governments to develop compensation and relocation guidelines in cases of demovictions, to reduce the need for arbitration and prevent homelessness.
* The ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Finance are working on a process to collect outstanding fines and refuse services to people with outstanding penalties.
* Policy work indicates that a regulation change could speed the return of security deposits to renters.
Phase 3: Recommendations to be addressed in 2020:
* A few of the more complex recommendations may require legislation or further analysis and work with different stakeholder groups to understand the need and broader implications of any changes.
* In particular, recommendations, such as bans on rental restrictions in stratas and issues around short-term rentals in communities, require further consultation with stakeholders and local governments.
* Other recommendations, such as those involving a renter’s right of first refusal to return to a unit following renovations or allowing email as a form of notice of service, may need legislative changes to be addressed.