Any rental increase will be difficult for tenants in arrears stemming from COVID-19, Paul Legace tenant advocate at Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre said, on Sept. 4 in response to the annual provincial residential rent increase. (Photo by:K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Rent frozen until winter but heats up at New Year

MAH issues Jan. 1 residential rent increase

Rent for British Columbia tenants, including those in Prince Rupert is due to increase by 1.4 per cent as of January 1, 2021, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAH) announced in a Sept. 3 press release.

This means that landlords who want to increase the rent on the first day of the new year must have correct notices issued by Sept. 30 if they are going to hand it personally to the tenant. If landlords want to serve the increase notice by taping it to the front door or leaving it in the mail box, then Sept. 27 is the last day, as three days service time must be allocated.

“To protect renters who have experienced income loss during COVID-19, the Province is continuing to maintain rent freezes until December 2020. Any tenant who received a Notice of Increase for 2020 that would have gone into effect after March 18, 2020, should continue to pay their current rent until Nov. 30, 2020,” the statement said.

Paul Legace, tenant advocate at the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre, said tenants need to be aware that even though there was a rent freeze during COVID-19, any rental increase notice issued and received during the increase moratorium since March 18, will come into effect on Dec. 1.

“This is where it can be really confusing for tenants. Notices of increase served during the rent freeze will become effective Dec. 1, if there has been a clear three calendar months notice,” Legace said.

READ MORE: Liberals extend commercial rent-relief program for last time

The 1.4 per cent increase is less than half of what could have been charged to tenants in 2018, MAH said, because prior to the provincial changes an additional two per cent to offset the rate of inflation could be charged to tenants.

“By removing the extra two per cent, renters living in a $1,320-per-month apartment, which is the cost of the average two-bedroom rental unit in B.C., will save up to $317 next year, and people living in an average two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver will save about $420,” MAH said.

“This system ensures property owners are able to make investments and repairs to maintain safe housing, while ensuring rent increases are moderate and predictable, MAH said in the statement. “B.C. landlords can increase rent only once per year and must provide tenants with three full months’ notice using the correct notice of rent increase form.

“The 1.4 percent itself is certainly lower than in other years. Some years have been as high as 4 per cent,” Legace said.

“The catch is if people are now in payback and are behind on their rent they have to pay that back over a year. Having an increase on top of that is just going to be very challenging for some folks. They will have the 1.4 and then a payment plan on top of it,” he said.

“Given circumstances it would have been nice if the 1.4 per cent could have been waived this year,” Legace said.

“Rents are very high. Period. But proportionately things have increased so much, and now the government is trying to catch up from a previous government with some of the policies … Any increase is going to be difficult.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: B.C.’s eviction ban for unpaid rent to end Sept. 1

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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