News / Vancouver

Almost 25% of calls to Residential Tenancy Branch are dropped

NDP MLA says Residential Tenancy Branch is underfunded and understaffed after FOI reveals nearly 40,000 dropped calls and 35 minute wait times in 2014-15.

Condos in Vancouver's Yaletown.

Eric Dreger/The Canadian Press

Condos in Vancouver's Yaletown.

A call to the Residential Tenancy Branch is likely to pile on even more frustration for fed up tenants and landlords, documents reveal.

According to the branch’s quarterly activity report, obtained by Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby through Freedom of Information, 24 per cent of calls to the RTB in the 2014-15 fiscal year were abandoned.

In total, the branch counted 39,289 hang-ups during that period.

With an average call wait time that exceeds 34 minutes, Eby isn’t surprised people give up, no matter how dire their predicament at home.

“It’s pretty clear that the systems in place are failing both landlords and tenants,” said Eby. “If they can’t reach someone and they have to hang up, their problems aren’t resolved.”

If callers do manage to get through, the branch can provide both tenants and landlords with advice for resolving disputes and inform parties of their rights on issues like noise complaints, renovictions, sub-standard conditions and rent increases.

The NDP MLA filed the information request because a constituent of his came seeking help in a landlord dispute.

Eby’s office tried calling the RTB repeatedly on behalf of the constituent but weren’t even able to get a busy signal or be placed on hold; the line was simply down.

Direct calls are the most common form of communication people use to contact the branch, according to the activity report.

In a city where rental vacancy rates are below one per cent, Eby said an underfunded and understaffed Residential Tenancy Branch puts vulnerable Vancouver renters at a disadvantage.

“The vacancy rate is so low and there are so few affordable spaces, renters can’t just choose to move and find a better place,” he said.

Not being able to contact the RTB in a timely manner to resolve their issue just prolongs their agony, Eby said.

“It’s a double whammy.”

To make matters worse, the fees to apply for dispute resolution (now $100) and a review hearing ($50) doubled this year.

Between April 2014 and March 2015, the Residential Tenancy Branch received a total of 165,082 calls.

In that period, it received 22,058 applications for dispute resolution and scheduled 17,595 hearings.

The branch’s Burnaby office was the busiest with 19,810 walk-in visits.

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