By Kate Lambert
Premier John Horgan appointed a Rental Housing Task Force in April 2018, to advise on how to improve security and fairness for renters and landlords throughout the province.
The Task Force has three members: MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA Adam Olsen and MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard. During 2018, the Rental Housing Task Force conducted a provincewide engagement which provided an opportunity for people concerned about rental laws and policies to be heard. The results of this engagement were summarized in a ‘What We Heard Report’.
The recommendations from the Rental Housing Task Force are with Premier John Horgan and Minister Selina Robinson now.
What’s happened, what‘s great and what needs work.
The Task Force recommended that the annual increase for rent should be capped at inflation (2.5% for 2019) and it was. This was to deal with the unaffordable rent increases in BC. Landlords can also apply for and get modest rises above that if they complete repairs, incentivizing needed repair work.
Recommendation 1: Stop renovictions.
Renovictions affect a lot of renters. They make more affordable housing unavailable and adversely affect people on fixed incomes, such as seniors. If this recommendation is taken seriously, illegal and non-essential renovation evictions could end.
Recommendation 6: Strengthen penalties for breaking the law, including refusal of service for outstanding administrative penalties.
Only two administrative penalties have been given in the last few years. There need to be penalties for landlords and tenants who maliciously break the law. Tenants identify landlords who routinely flout the law and put their tenants in danger. We need a better way to deal with these landlords.
Recommendation 11: Work with local governments to develop, implement and enforce short-term rental rules to better protect long-term rental stock.
Making short term rentals a less attractive option for owners than rental housing would be great. AirBnB and others take stock out of the market. We need that housing stock.
Recommendation 15: Require landlords who are filing for eviction for cause, or for renovation, to provide all evidence with any eviction notice to the affected tenants.
This would be great. But only if it’s accompanied by education so renters know their rights.
Recommendation 16: If repairs are needed to maintain a rental home and the landlord is refusing to make them in a timely way, have the Residential Tenancy Branch proactively reduce the rent of affected tenants until the repairs are completed.
We have told renters for years to apply for a rent reduction when they ask for repairs. It would be wonderful if landlords were encouraged to do needed repairs with financial penalties.
Recommendation 17: Allow email as a form of notice of service between landlord and tenants.
Let’s enter the 20th century! I know we are already in the 21st. Allowing email will make the process much easier. And provide reliable evidence of receipt.
Recommendation 18: 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.
This would be great. Damage (security) deposits are held in escrow in some jurisdictions. That would be a great improvement.
What Needs Work:
Recommendation 4: Implement a B.C.-wide rent bank system for low-income people.
A rent bank for emergencies is a great idea. But this recommendation puts forward loans for short term housing risk, rather than grants. Saddling renters who are struggling with loans, even low or no-interest loans is short sighted.
Recommendation 7: Investigate ways to provide affordable access to bailiff services in smaller and more remote communities.
This is sorely needed. The recommendations need detail! It is expensive in money and time to get bailiffs to come. How will this work? The law only works if it can be enforced quickly.
Recommendation 20: Undertake a review to simplify the regulations relating to a landlord’s obligation to store abandoned personal property.
I agree that the storage rules are onerous on the landlord. Balance is very much needed to make sure that precious items aren’t discarded even when they aren’t worth money.
For the full recommendations see this link.