B.C. Rental Housing Task Force calls for end to renovictions and speedier return of damage deposits

It stopped short of recommending vacancy control, in which rental increases would be tied to the unit rather than the tenant

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      The B.C. Rental Housing Task Force report runs for 44 pages and includes 23 recommendations, but there's only one serious point of contention this morning for groups that advocate for tenants.

      It concerns the task force's 10th recommendation, which is to maintain rent tied to the renter and not to the unit. 

      Eight organizations included their names in a news release calling for "vacancy control", in which allowable annual rent increases are tied to the unit.

      They claimed that the task force's first recommendation—"stop renovictions"—can only truly be achieved by taking away the profit motive for landlords. And these groups say that derives from being able to evict tenants and renting the suite at a far higher monthly rate.

      "Vacancy control is a very important part of our affordable housing platform and many of our members have faced or are facing increased rents because of renovictions," the low-income-support group Acorn B.C. stated. "Acorn is extremely disappointed that the B.C. Rental Housing Task Force has decided not to recommend vacancy control."

      That message was echoed by the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, the New Westminster Tenants Union, Pivot Legal Society, Renters United Kelowna, Together Against Poverty Society, the Victoria Tenant Action Group, and the Vancouver Tenants Union.

      "Without vacancy control, any investments made in public housing, financial supports for tenants, and new supply will not keep pace with the loss of affordable rental stock," the Vancouver Tenants Union stated. "Across B.C. average rents are rising two to three times higher than the allowed amount set by government every year, eroding the purchasing power of tenants, with affordable units being lost every month to renoviction and tenant turnover."

      Last month, a developers' group warned that if vacancy control was introduced, it would be the "death knell for rental home construction", leading to the delay or cancellation of 12,361 new rental units.

      “This would be the single, most significant impediment to the construction of rental apartments,” Urban Development Institute president and CEO Anne McMullin declared. 

      Vacancy control is also opposed by Landlord B.C.

      The B.C. Rental Housing Task Force is chaired by Vancouver–West End NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. The other two members are Green MLA Adam Olsen and NDP MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard.

      One of its recommendations is to implement a B.C.-wide rent-bank system to provide credit to low-income people to keep a roof over their head.

      The task force has also called for speeding up the return of damage deposits by enabling tenants to file requests directly to the residential tenancy branch if no damage has been found or reported by the landlord.

      In addition, the task force urged clear timelines for a tenant's decision on giving first refusal for a unit that's been vacated for renovations. There's also a call for the province to work with local governments to develop tenant compensation and relocation guidelines if purpose-built rental dwellings are being demolished.

      Another recommendation is to record all residential tenancy branch hearings to improve the fairness and consistency of decisions by arbitrators. Yet another proposed measure is to expand grounds upon which decisions can be reviewed.

      In addition, the task force wants the province to require landlords to provide "all evidence" along with any eviction notice to tenants.

      "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," the task force advised.

      It has also recommended a review to simplify regulations regarding landlords' obligations to store abandoned personal property. Another proposal is to allow email as a form of notice between landlords and tenants.