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Renovictions will be tightened in proposed changes to renters laws

Rent freeze, and changes to procedures will benefit Prince Rupert tenants and landlords
More than 35 families received renoviction notices on Feb. 26, 2020 at Pinecrest Townhomes in Prince Rupert. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert renters and those across the province will benefit from legislative changes to renovictions, rental increases, and dispute resolution procedures if passed, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) announced on March 1 in a press release.

Changes to renters legislation will include rental increases being capped to the rate of inflation, extending the rental increase freeze until Dec. 31, 2021 to give renters more security, and changes to the dispute resolution process to make it better for tenants and landlords by stopping illegal evictions. If passed the changes will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

To protect tenants, landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) before they can terminate a tenancy agreement for the purpose of renovating. In addition, landlords will not be able to end tenancies for renovations that are not substantial or do not require the rental unit to be vacant.

Paul Lagace tenant advocate at Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre said the proposed changes are exciting and will assist in protecting tenants and landlords.

“I saw a significant increase in renoviction notices over the past year,” Lagace said. “Even after the COVID-19 eviction ban was lifted, I saw a spike in the late autumn and winter.”

Lagace clarified that the spike in renovictions in Prince Rupert was present, notwithstanding the Pinecrest and First Ave. renovictions where more than 100 people were provided legitimate renoviction notices in late Feb. of 2020. The renoviction notices are usually to long-term tenants who have lived in the unit since prior to rental rates climbing, the tenant advocate said.

“I think it’s just tied with the vacancy rate, quite honestly. Landlords see these units can be rented for significantly more,” Legace said. “It’s always folks that have been in these units for five to 10 years. It’s always 100 per cent of the time because the opinion is the rent could easily be increased from 50 to 100 per cent. It’s never not the case.”

“The changes mean no more tenants will face eviction notices for phony renovations that were never going to happen,” Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West-End, on behalf of David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, said.

“By putting an end to this kind of bullying behaviour, meant to drive out long-term tenants and jack up the rent, we’re protecting renters and supporting rental housing providers who do proactive maintenance of their rental homes.”

Changes proposed to the rent freeze will mean that all renters who have received a notice of a rent increase that would have taken effect after March 30, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2022, can disregard those notices. As well, starting in 2022 rent increases will be capped at the rate of inflation, fulfilling a commitment by government MMAH explained in the press release.

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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