OUR VIEW: Will tenancy act changes bring a halt to renovictions?

The B.C. government’s Rental Housing Task Force took the first important steps last week to finally make substantial changes to the Rental Tenancy Act.

The three-member task force, led by Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, is part of a plan to modernize the province’s tenancy law, which hasn’t been updated in 16 years.

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The fact it’s taken so long is scary, considering how radically different the rental market is from 16 years ago.

One of the major goals is to stop renovictions, which happen when a landlord issues an eviction notice to do renovations only to get the tenants out in order to jack up the rent.

The task force says the RTA should allow renters to maintain tenancy during renovations as long as they are willing to accommodate construction, with evictions only being approved if there’s evidence that reasonable accommodations can’t be made to maintain the tenancy.

That’s a good start, but it’s rejected the idea of vacancy control – in which the rent is tied to the unit rather than the tenant.

The Vancouver Tenants Union has argued that vacancy control would disincentivize evictions for a profit motive, slow the destruction of low-income rentals, lower the caseload for the Residential Tenancy Branch and help create “positive, good-faith relationships between landlords and tenants.”

Organizations such as LandlordBC, meanwhile, insisted vacancy control would limit what landlords could invest in their properties during turnover and spell the end of new purpose-built rental construction in the province.

How you view vacancy control likely depends on if you are a renter or a landlord. The task force clearly was looking at a more middle-of-the-road approach, and it remains to be seen how tough the language will be in regards to preventing renovictions.

As for toughening up enforcement and penalties, Chandra Herbert said “too many landlords and renters have faced challenges because of people preying on them, cheating them out of their rents, damaging their suites, forcing them out of their homes illegally.”

In all, there are 23 recommendations the task force unveiled, including:

  • increasing the availability of currently empty strata units by eliminating a strata corporation’s ability to ban owners from renting their units
  • speed up the return of damage deposits to tenants by allowing tenants to make a direct request to the Residential Tenancy Branch for the damage deposit where no damage has been found and reported by the landlord
  • ensure it is clear for all landlords and renters where to go to get help for all forms of residential tenancy

The recommendations are, of course, just that. It’s up to the government to make the actual changes so start writing those letters in an effort to sway the premier.

- With files from the
Vancouver Courier

 

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