Amendments will prevent unreasonable rent increases

The amendments would improve the rights of renters throughout the province.

Additional legislation to prevent landlords from implementing unreasonable rent increases has been introduced by the provincial government.

The amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act means that a major loophole in fixed-term leases has been closed, namely the removal of the geographic rent increase clause.

The clause allowed landlords to increase rent above the allowable rent increase limit when other units in the same geographic area rent for higher amounts.

In addition, changes to fixed-term leases — restricting fixed-term tenancies with vacate clauses, and limiting rent increases between fixed-term tenancy agreements with the same tenant to the maximum allowable amount — also came into effect on December 11.

Housing advocate Paul Lagace, who now works out of Prince Rupert, said the amendments would improve the rights of renters throughout the province.

“Simply said the ‘fixed-term consecutive lease loophole’ was a way that B.C. landlords were circumventing the maximum annual rent increases permitted in month-to-month tenancies, which are usually between 2 and 4 per cent depending on the annual inflation rate,” said Lagace.

“A number of landlords across the province were using fixed-term leases on their long-term tenants in order to jack up their rents.”

He said for over three years the Kitimat Housing Resource Project had petitioned the government to close the loophole, bringing attention to the situation through the media and consulting with the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch on potential policy that could be implemented.

“What was most concerning to me, from a Kitimat perspective, was that 80 per cent of our Kitimat rental-market folks are on these fixed-term leases. With the announcement of any major project locally, rents could have doubled again as we saw during the Kitimat Modernization Project,” said Lagace.

He said within a year following the announcement of a new major project in Kitimat the town would lose many of the long-term tenants who weren’t pushed out by what he called the “mass-renovictions” during the modernization project.

“Fortunately now, with the Housing Minister’s recent announcement, there is some protection in place for our folks, a number who are seniors, low-income earners and persons with disabilities.”

Provincial Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre executive director Andrew Sakamoto said the provincial government’s top priority was to eliminate fixed-term tenancies with vacate clauses.

“This type of agreement was increasingly being used by landlords wanting to circumvent rent controls and evict tenants for reasons outside of the Residential Tenancy Act, practices that don’t align with the spirit and intent of the legislation,” said Sakamoto.

The new rules will apply to both new and existing tenancy agreements and will also streamline the dispute resolution process for the return of security deposits.

If a landlord doesn’t return a security deposit, a tenant will be able to apply for a monetary order through an expedited process.

This will ensure that tenants get their deposits back more quickly – three weeks, instead of waiting up to six months.

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