Eliminating renovictions and a province-wide rent bank system for low-income people are among 23 recommendations released by the provincial Rental Housing Task Force (RHTF).

The RHTF was appointed in April by B.C. Premier John Horgan to advise on improving security and fairness for renters and landlords throughout the province.

The recommendations come after engagement throughout B.C. with landlords, renters and concerned citizens.

In the report, renters said the top challenges they face are inadequate maintenance and building conditions of rental homes, followed by difficult or abusive rental housing providers.

The biggest concerns for rental housing providers outlined in the report was difficulty evicting renters and unsupportive or difficult to use Residential Tenancy Branch processes.

The list of recommendations include:

  • Stop renovictions
  • Work with local governments to develop tenant compensation and relocation guidelines in the case of demolition of purpose-built rental to reduce dislocation and homelessness of affected tenants.
  • Set a clear timeline for a tenant’s decision on the use of a right of first refusal.
  • Strengthen enforcement of the law, including implementing a clear process for making, investigating and reporting administrative penalty complaints.
  • Strengthen penalties for breaking the law, including refusal of service for outstanding administrative penalties.
  • Investigate ways to provide affordable access to bailiff services in smaller and more remote communities.
  • Investigate other options to increase the repayment rate for damages, non-payment of rent and other storage costs if ordered by the residential tenancy branch.
  • Increase the availability of currently empty strata housing by eliminating a strata corporation’s ability to ban owners from renting their own strata units.
  • Maintain rent tied to the renter, not the unit.
  • Work with local governments to develop, implement and enforce short-term rental rules to better protect long-term rental stock.
  • Make the residential tenancy branch more responsive, accessible and proactive with more opportunities to learn from and educate landlords and renters on their rights and responsibilities.
  • Improve fairness and consistency of the residential tenancy branch dispute resolution hearings process by recording all hearings.
  • Improve procedural fairness by expanding review considerations to include more grounds for review.
  • Require landlords who are filing for eviction for cause, or for renovation, to provide all evidence with any eviction notice to the affected tenants.
  • If repairs are needed to maintain a rental home and the landlord is refusing to make them in a timely way, have the residential tenancy branch proactively reduce the rent of affected tenants until the repairs are completed.
  • Allow email as a form of notice of service between landlord and tenants.
  • Speed up the return of damage deposits to tenants by allowing tenants to make a direct request to the residential tenancy branch for the damage deposit where no damage has been found and reported to the landlord.
  • Work with the insurance industry to see if rent guarantee insurance, and other improvements to insurance coverage, might be provided for landlords in B.C.
  • Undertake a review to simplify the regulations relating to a landlord’s obligation to store abandoned personal property.
  • Ensure it is clear for all landlords and renters where to go to get help for all forms of residential tenancy.
  • Address the specific needs of non-profit housing and supportive housing providers in the residential tenancy act.
  • Ensure manufactured home park rules are clear and understandable. Clarify what occurs when park rules conflict with lease or contract rules.
Prior to the final report, the task force released early recommendations which led to the government setting the annual allowable rent increase to 2.5% to match inflation, with an exception to allow for more increases where work has been done to improve rental properties.

The report says there are an estimated 1.5 million renters in B.C., with a provincial vacancy rate the lowest in the country at 1.3 per cent.

Some vacancy rates in B.C., including on Vancouver Island, are below one per cent.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) October rental market report, the vacancy rate in Victoria went up to 1.1 per cent and Nanaimo’s climbed to 2.4 per cent.

The task force is led by the premier’s advisor on residential tenancy, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, along with MLA’s Adam Olsen and Ronna-Rae Leonard.

The recommendations will be forwarded to premier Horgan and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selena Robinson for review.

CHEK News