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City of Prince Rupert responds to advocate’s claims bylaw does not protect tenants

Business and Licensing bylaw is just part of a suite of initiatives to better housing, city says
Paul Lagace, tenant advocate at Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre reviews summary information on new city bylaws designed to protect tenants, which he said on Jan. 9 have “proven to be useless”. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

The City of Prince Rupert states a new bylaw enacted to protect tenants is just one part of a suite of interim housing strategies actively being worked on to attract more housing to the city, which includes current applications being worked on to the Federal Rapid Housing Initiative.

The city responded to claims from a local housing advocate that the recently enacted Business and Licensing Bylaw, which has sections designed to protect tenants from renovictions, is in reality “useless” in a Jan. 13 email to The Northern View.

With more than 24 renovictions from multiple properties across his desk in one day, Paul Lagace, tenant advocate at the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre, expressed on January 9, concerns for tenants, stating he found the bylaw had no workable protection in any “real world scenario” and one section voided another.

“The city understands the stressful position that Mr. Lagace and the tenants that he advocates for are in, especially given the broader issues of housing affordability in Prince Rupert,” Veronika Stewart, communication manager for the city, stated in the email.

“We understand if there is a lack of understanding for the public in how this bylaw could support tenants, and we are working to develop some informational materials and a potential information session with tenants in Prince Rupert in the near future.”

“We have reached out to Mr. Lagace this morning to provide information around why there was an additional section added to the bylaw at third reading, which was part of a public council meeting. After the bylaw had received its first two readings, the city was made aware that the Province had updated the Residential Tenancy Act, which includes enhanced protections for renters.”

“At the time, given the bylaw was in the process of adoption, it was decided that the city would rely on the processes and protections provided by the Residential Tenancy Act and Residential Tenancy Branch,” Stewart’s email reads.

“The city’s Business Licensing (rental protection) Bylaw is far broader in its protections for tenants than has been characterized. There are multiple protections with respect to minimum maintenance standards, where tenants can report landlords for failing to keep rentals in safe and livable conditions through our Bylaw Department. The intent of the bylaw has been to provide a local mechanism for protecting renters.”

Section 44 of the city’s bylaw, meanwhile, is still applicable in that it enables the tenant to file a bylaw complaint with the city against landlords of multi-family units in cases where they believe that the landlord has not followed the appropriate process to file for an Order of Possession with the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), Stewart stated.

“Section 44 of the city’s bylaw reflects provincial process, and therefore allows the city to enforce municipal ticketing against a landlord while they continue to be in contravention of the city’s bylaw and consequently, fines and potential for suspension of a business licence serve as an additional deterrent against illegal evictions in Prince Rupert.”

The communications manager said if landlords do not follow the RTB processes or adhere to any tenancy branch order, a complaint may be lodged with the city and deterrents such as surcharges, fines and the revocation of the owner’s business licence may occur.

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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t the time, given the Bylaw was in the process of adoption, it was decided that the City would rely on the processes and protections provided by the Residential Tenancy Act and Residential Tenancy Branch.