News / Vancouver

No fix yet for fixed-term loophole that allows landlords to jack up rents

B.C.’s minister responsible for housing has acknowledged that some landlords are misusing fixed-term tenancy agreements

Fixed term tenancies with a vacate clause are being misused by some landlords, B.C.'s minister for housing acknowledged eight months ago. Opposition MLAs are questioning why it's taking so long to fix the loophole.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

Fixed term tenancies with a vacate clause are being misused by some landlords, B.C.'s minister for housing acknowledged eight months ago. Opposition MLAs are questioning why it's taking so long to fix the loophole.

It’s a loophole B.C.’s minister responsible for housing has promised to fix. But with just days before the end of the current legislative session, Opposition MLAs are asking: where’s the fix for fixed-term tenancy?

“This is still causing people to lose their homes,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End. “It’s an ongoing issue and it’s being used more and more.”

Government communications staff indicated there were no plans to introduce legislation during the current sitting of the legislature, the last session before a provincial election on May 9.

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Rents rose sharply in Vancouver between 2015 and 2016, leading to an increase in reports of tenants facing pressure through different forms of legal evictions. One of those methods was using type of rental agreement called fixed-term tenancy, and then adding a clause stating the tenant will move out at the end of a certain time period.

David Cameron stands outside the house he rents in Victoria. Even though he told his landlord his family intends to stay for the long term, the lease offered by the property manager included fixed term agreement with a vacate clause.

Contributed

David Cameron stands outside the house he rents in Victoria. Even though he told his landlord his family intends to stay for the long term, the lease offered by the property manager included fixed term agreement with a vacate clause.

Some tenants complained that instead of moving to a month-to-month tenancy at the end of the term, landlords were asking for rent increases far above the capped annual increase allowed for month-to-month agreements. Currently, property owners are legally allowed to do this because tenants had signed the vacate clause in their lease.

With the extremely low vacancy rate in many B.C. communities, tenants often feel they have no choice but to sign the lease the landlord presents to them and hope for the best.

That was the case for David Cameron, a 48-year-old portfolio manager who lives in Victoria. Cameron, his wife and two sons had to leave one rental house when the owner sold it (they were not given the option to stay, and later noticed the house listed on Craiglist at a rental rate 44 per cent higher than what they had been paying).

Cameron and his wife managed to find a new rental house, but even though they told the property manager their intention was to stay for the long term, they were still presented with a fixed-term agreement with a vacancy clause. The company told Cameron the agreement was “standard.”

Cameron doesn’t buy the explanation from some landlord advocates that using a fixed-term agreement is simply a way to see if a new landlord-tenant relationship is “mutually beneficial.”

“All the risk is on the renter,” Cameron said, especially in a low vacancy rental markets like Victoria and Vancouver.

In September 2016, Coleman told Metro that his government was looking at changing legislation to prevent some landlords from “gaming” the system.

“You can’t just game it over to a new lease and jack it up to a point that’s unreasonable,” Coleman said.

In an emailed statement, communications said the task of amending the current rules “has proven to be complex, given the diverse opinions held by stakeholders.”

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