Residential rent is frozen for B.C. tenants effective immediately, under the powers of the Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 Related Measures Act, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced on Nov. 9 in a media statement.
“Increases set to happen on Dec. 1, 2020, are cancelled, along with all pending increases through to July,” the statement said.
“We know many renters are still facing income loss and even the slightest increase in rent could be extremely challenging. For that reason, we are extending the freeze on rent increases to provide more security for renters during the pandemic,” Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said. “We are all in this together, and it is important for both renters and landlords that people can stay in their homes.”
The rent increase freeze means that any notice of rent increase that has already been served will no longer be valid. Landlords must issue a new notice of rental increase using the 1.4 per cent set for 2021, using the correct form, and providing three full months of current notice, the Residential Tenancy Branch said on it’s information line.
“For most tenancies, this will mean that the earliest effective date for an increase will be August 1, 2021, if served in April 2021,” the RTB said.
The Province originally froze rent increases on March 18, 2020, with the ban set to expire Dec. 1.
“All renters who have received notice their rent was set to increase after the March 30, 2020, ban, including increases set for Dec. 1, should disregard those notices and continue to pay their current rent amount until July 10, 2021,” the MAH statement said.
In agreement with the rent-increase freeze is Paul Legace, tenant and poverty advocate for the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre.
“Income is not going to turn back. It’s not going back to normal anytime in the next year – that’s the simple thing.”
“But since the COVID-19 eviction moratorium lifted, I can tell you in the last two months, I’ve had more eviction notices than I’ve had in three years here. Hands down – more than in three years,” he said.
The majority of eviction notices that tenants are bringing to him are from ‘mom and pop’ landlords who own individual properties or a small number of units and not so much the larger corporate entities.
Legace said he is seeing a lot of eviction notices from landlords who say they are moving into the units themselves or are going to do renovations on the units. These notices are usually given to tenants who are living in lower-cost rental units in the $700-$800 range.
“It’s not the places that are charging $1,500 to $2,000,” he said.
With the housing crisis in Prince Rupert tenants are no longer just accepting the eviction notices laying down, because with nowhere to move to they need to dispute them.
Legace’s RTB hearing caseload has increased by at least three hearings a week, which in Prince Rupert is a higher amount than pre-COVID-19, he said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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