Double rent supplement to $1,000 per month, remove income test, LandlordBC suggests to province

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      David Hutniak says he can’t think of two groups that share the same interest during this pandemic more than landlords and renters.

      “We’re in this together,” Hutniak told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Hutniak is the CEO of LandlordBC, an organization that represents rental housing providers.

      In that interview Friday (April 24), Hutniak said that his group wants the province to enhance its temporary rental supplement program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Hutniak suggested doubling the monthly rental supplement to up $1,000 per month.

      Hutniak also noted that the amount could even be increased to $1,500 in Metro Vancouver, where rents are higher compared to the rest of the province.

      As well, the LandlordBC CEO indicated that the province should also do away with the income test to qualify renters for the subsidy.

      This morning (April 28), the organization issued a media release calling for the improvement of the rental supplement program.

      “The current benefit amount is inadequate for a vast majority of renters relative to the monthly rent they are responsible for and, furthermore, the selection criteria is in our view leaving many renters behind,” LandlordBC stated.

      According to the organization, a “fix” can be made in time for the May 1, 2020 collection of rent.

      “Specifically, we are asking that effective May 1 the current rent supplement benefit amount be increased to $750 per month for renters with no dependents, and $1000 per month for renters with dependents,” LandlordBC proposed.

      The rental supplement program provides $300 per month for eligible households with no dependents, and $500 each month for households with dependents.

      “Furthermore, we are calling on the BC Government to remove the income test and to extend this enhanced benefit through August 2020,” LandlordBC also proposed.

      Based on the current tenant eligibility criteria set by the province, renters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic must have a 2019 gross household income of less than $74,150 for singles and couples without dependents, and $113,040 for households with dependents.

      The temporary rental supplement program currently covers the months of April, May, and June 2020.

      In the phone interview on April 24, Hutniak told the Straight that his organization conducted a survey among rental providers, and received 476 responses.

      According to Hutniak, 24 percent of the respondents indicated that they executed a rent deferral agreement with their tenants.

      Moreover, 64 percent said that they collected 100 percent of rent for April. Also, 26 percent collected 50 percent or more of monthly rent for April.

      Of the respondents, 10 percent indicated that they collected no rent at all in April.

      “Everybody needs cash flow, and rental housing providers are no different,” Hutniak said in the interview.

      According to Hutniak, the situation is more acute for small landlords who have lost regular paying jobs because of the pandemic.

      “We're both kind of in the same boat here,” Hutniak said. 

      Hutniak noted that while April rental collection didn’t look too bad, based on the survey conducted by hi organization, it is expected that there will be “less rent paid for May, June and beyond”.

      “Everybody who hasn't paid any rent, there's going to be big rent deficit, and, you know, the odds of landlords being able to collect those unpaid rents, I think is pretty low,” Hutniak said.