News / Vancouver

B.C. to close loophole used to evict tenants and jack up rents

Housing minister Selina Robinson introduces legislation banning landlords from using fixed-term tenancy agreements to increase rents beyond the allowable limit.

A dog walks along the beach at Hadden park on Oct. 5, 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro / Vancouver Freelance

A dog walks along the beach at Hadden park on Oct. 5, 2017.

A notorious loophole used to evict many Metro Vancouver tenants and to jack up local rents is finally being closed.

Housing minister Selina Robinson introduced legislation Thursday to restrict a landlord’s use of the vacate clause in fixed-term tenancy agreements.

Fixed-term tenancy agreements allow landlords to evict tenants after a set term, such as one year.

This led to a situation where renters were either forced from their home or had to agree to a new tenancy agreement at a higher rent well above the legal allowable increase if they wanted to stay.

Vancouver residents have told Metro, which has covered the issue extensively, that their rents have increased by as much as $375 a month under the agreements, used by prominent developers like Aquilini and Westbank.

“Tenants have faced the difficult choice of either staying … at a rent they can’t afford, or move out with little time to look for another place in the context of a near-zero vacancy rate,” said Robinson. “This is unacceptable and the undue stress and anxiety this has caused renters has gone on for far too long.”

If passed, the changes would take effect immediately and apply to all renters currently living under a fixed-term agreement.

Instead of being forced to vacate, renters would continue living in the unit on a month-to-month basis under the same rules and rent control that apply to all other rental contracts.

The vacate clause will still be allowed under two circumstances: when a tenant needs to sublet a unit for a set period of time, or when an owner has rented out a unit but has firm plans to return on a particular date.

Andrew Sakamoto, the executive director of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, says he would have preferred to see fix-term leases outlawed altogether but believe government has landed on a “fair compromise.”

“For years, TRAC has considered fixed-term tenancies with vacate clauses to be our top priority in terms of legislative change,” said Sakamoto. “Prohibiting the vast majority of vacate clauses will go a long way toward improving housing affordability across the province.”

Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert said the use of the agreements skyrocketed in the last three years “with a lot more landlords learning they could do this.”

Robinson seemed confident when asked whether the government fears legal challenges or reprisals from landlords who currently have tenants on fixed-term leases.

“We’ve run it by our legal department,” she said. “We’re fine.”

-with files from Jen St. Denis

More on Metronews.ca