The B.C. government is extending its COVID-19 rent freeze to the end of 2021, and amending legislation to cap future rent increases to inflation.
Attorney General David Eby, given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 election, introduced the changes as the legislature resumed its post-election sitting March 1. Once approved by the NDP majority, the legislation will impose new rules on landlords intending to evict tenants for renovations or redevelopment of the property.
Landlords will have to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch first, before issuing eviction notices for renovations or rebuilding. The legislation also changes regulations for mobile home parks, to ensure that changes in park rules do not override an existing tenancy agreement.
The changes to so-called “renovictions” and “demovictions” were recommended by an MLA committee in 2018, chaired by Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra-Herbert.
“The changes mean no more tenants will face eviction notices for phoney renovations that were never going to happen,” Chandra Herbert said. “By putting an end to this kind of bullying behaviour, meant to drive out long-term tenants and jack up the rent, we’re protecting renters and supporting rental housing providers who do proactive maintenance of their rental homes.”
David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, representing owners of rental properties, endorsed the new restrictions on evictions, but said the Residential Tenancy Branch needs to handle its new role efficiently.
“LandlordBC believes that encouraging continued investment to prolong or sustain the useful life of a rental unit or building is essential,” Hutniak said in the government statement. “We further believe that making the landlord proceed in this proposed manner, whereby legitimate cases where vacant possession is necessary and appropriate are adjudicated up front, will ensure work is undertaken in good faith, thereby mitigating what has at times been an unnecessarily confrontational process.
“What will be critical is that the RTB establish a robust application and implementation process and that arbitrators assigned to these cases possess the necessary specialized knowledge to assess the technical nature of the proposed work.”
It’s the second extension for the rent freeze, first imposed in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began disrupting lives and employment.