Rent law changes coming, but not for ‘renovictions:’ Coleman
B.C.’s minister responsible for housing targets fixed-term tenancy, not renoviction, for change as renters struggle in tight market
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As Metro Vancouver renters struggle to find and keep a place amid steeply rising rates, British Columbia’s minister responsible for housing says his government is looking at reforming some legislation to prevent landlords from “gaming” the system.
But any changes will likely target the use of fixed-term tenancy with a vacate clause, not the practice known as “renoviction,” in which landlords evict all tenants in a building in order to renovate and raise rents.
“We’re doing some work on (fixed-term) because that appears to be a gaming of the system, so we have to stop the gaming of the system,” said Rich Coleman, the Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing.
“If someone goes into a contract with somebody for a period of time, it’s the same thing if you lease a commercial building: it’s considered as a commercial lease because you have a fixed term… you’ve entered into something that expires.
“So when it expires, that’s when we’re going to have look at the transition to look at something in place that says you can’t just game it over to a new lease and jack it up to a point that’s unreasonable.”
Tenant advocates say they have seen an increase in renters being evicted through renovations or through landlord and family use, and some tenants have also faced pressure to sign a type of rental agreement called a fixed-term tenancy with a vacate clause. That allows landlords to offer a “new” tenancy at the end of the term, often with a rent increase far above the 2.9 per cent allowed by law.
On the practice of evicting to renovate, Coleman indicated that current protections are adequate, echoing previous communication to Metro from Coleman’s ministry stating that no changes to the RTA around renovation evictions are being considered.
“There are very specific rules about renovations,” he said. “They have to have the permits from the city and it has to be major structural change. Some people have abused it and we try to get (the) Residential Tenancy (Branch) to change that.”
A number of former tenants of an apartment building in Mount Pleasant recently spoke to Metro about their experience trying to fight eviction when their landlord, Wall Financial, wanted to renovate every suite in the building and increase rents by $500. Although one tenant was able to prove Wall did not have the necessary permits in place, she ultimately had to leave after receiving a second eviction notice stating the landlord needed to use the unit for their own use or family member.
NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who has experience working with several tenants facing renoviction, said it’s common for landlords to issue eviction notices before permits are in place.
The NDP has unsuccessfully introduced a private members bill several times: under the proposed bill, the tenant would have the right to return when the renovation is complete, at the same rent they were paying before. Landlords would be able to apply to B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) to increase the rent based on the renovations that were done.
Metro asked Coleman what would be problematic about enacting those proposed changes, but the minister did not respond to the question.
The Tenant Resource and Advocacy Centre told the Vancouver Sun that complaints about “bad faith” evictions have more than doubled over the past 12 months.
But Coleman said that across B.C. as a whole, there have been relatively few complaints brought to the Residential Tenancy Branch.