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New laws give more protection to tenants facing renovictions

A Victoria tenants advocacy group says changes to B.C.’s tenancy laws introduced in the legislature Thursday will give more rights to renters facing renovictions.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson

A Victoria tenants advocacy group says changes to B.C.’s tenancy laws introduced in the legislature Thursday will give more rights to renters facing renovictions.

Under changes to the Residential Tenancy Act introduced by Housing Minister Selina Robinson, tenants must be given four months’ notice instead of two when their landlord asks them to vacate because of a renovation or demolition. Tenants will also have a month to dispute the eviction with the Residential Tenancy Branch instead of 15 days.

“Tenants need stronger protections when a landlord is choosing to renovate or sell their property,” Robinson said in a statement.

Renters across the province have complained of “renovictions” — when a landlord evicts a tenant and renovates in order to increase the rent. Rising rents and a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate in Greater Victoria make it hard for renters to find another home.

“This is a recognition by the government that the laws as currently stated are not sufficient to protect renters in these situations,” said Emily Rogers, tenant legal advocate for the Together Against Poverty Society.

B.C. has been playing catchup in improving tenancy laws, Rogers said, adding that the change “brings B.C. to the baseline of what is fair and reasonable treatment of tenants when they are faced with losing their home through demoviction and renoviction.”

Renters evicted by landlords who falsely claim they are going to renovate or that a family member is going to move in, can be awarded 12 months worth of rent for a “bad faith” eviction. Currently, tenants can receive two months worth of rent for such an eviction.

Tenants in multi-unit buildings will also have first right of refusal to return to a building if they are evicted due to renovation, but they will have to pay rent that reflects the current market.

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord B.C., said in a statement: “As already-old rental housing continues to age, there is increased pressure to renovate or redevelop these homes, while at the same time ensuring the health and safety of existing tenants. Our industry recognizes the need to provide sufficient notice to allow tenants ample time to secure new homes. Providing the option to return to their renovated unit at market rent, something many in our industry already do, will further contribute to housing security.”

Robinson also introduced changes to the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act to give more compensation for tenants who are displaced or who lose their home because they’re unable to move it.

Tenants in mobile home parks must be paid $20,000 in compensation if the park closes, compared to the existing compensation of 12 months worth of pad rental. Pad rental can vary between $200 and $1,000 a month. Tenants who are evicted in bad faith can receive a year’s worth of compensation, which is double the current amount.

On Tuesday, Premier John Horgan announced the creation of a rental housing task force, led by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert (Vancouver-West End), which will consult with the public before making recommendations on further changes to the Residential Tenancy Act. The task force will make recommendations by the fall.

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