A 64-page report highlights the underfunding of the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Lawyers Jessie Hadley and Kendra Milne of the Community Legal Assistance Society conclude in On Shaky Ground: Fairness at the Residential Tenancy Branch that this has weakened the agency’s ability to protect tenants and landlords.
“For the rights and obligations contained in BC’s tenancy legislation to have meaning, the provincial government must give the Branch a renewed focus and the necessary resources to do its job fairly and consistently,” the authors state in the report released on October 8.
They note that with an annual budget of about $8 million and a staff of 90 full-time employees, the RTB handles an enormous volume of requests for assistance.
Its call centre received nearly 200,000 calls in fiscal year 2011-2012. It received 20,756 applications for dispute resolution in the same period, and its arbitrators presided over 19,768 arbitration hearings. In comparison, the small claims court, which deals with disputes under $25,000, had 15,612 new cases in 2011–12.
According to Hadley and Milne, there are “significant and ongoing problems” with the RTB’s adjudication services, “resulting in inconsistent and unreliable enforcement” of the tenancy law.
“While the Branch has robust powers to investigate and penalize those who repeatedly violate the legislation,” they also note, “it is failing to make effective use of those powers.”
Because of funding constraints, the authors say that the RTB has “prioritized efficiency and cost saving at the expense of fairness”.