Today in the Legislature we initiated second reading debate of Bill 16: Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act, 2017. The bill makes a number of changes to the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and the Residential Tenancy Act designed to:
Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.
A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debates at second reading on Bill 16, Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act.
As we’ve heard, this bill has three main goals. It makes amendments to the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and the Residential Tenancy Act. The bill makes the following changes. First, it restricts the ability for landlords to use a vacate clause with fixed-term leases except in special circumstances that will be provided for by regulation. Two, it limits rent increases between fixed-term tenancies with the same tenant to the maximum annual allowable amount. Three, it enables the residential tenancy branch to take stronger actions to enforce laws and repeat violators, and also it streamlines the dispute resolution process for the return of security and pet deposits.
I rise to speak to this bill as someone who historically has both been a renter and a landlord — a landlord since 1986 in one form or another. I rise to say that I approach this bill very cautiously.
I recognize that there is a crisis facing affordability in Metro Vancouver and in metro Victoria, where vacancy rates are below half a percent or 0.6 percent.
And I recognize that there are a number of bad apples out there — I come back to the Leader of the Opposition’s term “bad apples” — who have created a crisis, in terms of fixed-term leases being used as a means of avoiding the law, the law which limits rent increases for people who are there.
Now, I approach this also from the sides of those who are landlords to recognize that the fixed-term lease often is one of the only means to actually get a tenant out of a property if the tenant is actually not responsibly taking care of that property.
I understand that there is the rental tenancy agency and the agreement. I’m concerned that without an injection of substantial funds — something I’ll explore in the committee stage, and I understand these will be forthcoming —the intent will be lost of this one tool that landlords have to ensure that they can evict a tenant in a timely fashion without having to drag through the RTA process.
Because we do know that there are some cases where we have irresponsible landlords, but we also have irresponsible renters. So I respect the need for this legislation in a basically zero-vacancy market.
We have a crisis on our hands. We need to deal with that crisis to ensure that renters, the most vulnerable in the society, are not being taken advantage of by those exploiting it. But at the same time, in the longer term, I think we need to look very carefully at how we actually move the whole Residential Tenancy Act forward to ensure that we protect good landlords.
I come to my own personal circumstance as somebody who has been a landlord for many, many years and, also, from a family of people who worked in the restaurant business, who did not have a pension. They had no pension other than by the fact that they squirrelled their savings into real estate to ensure that their pension would be the rent from this real estate in their retirement.
Now again, the single most important thing a landlord can do is get a good tenant who lives in the same place for a long time. A good tenant is more valuable than $100 a month, because you know a good tenant is one that will take care of the property and is one you do not price out of the market.
One of the means and ways that landlords use this fixed-term clause is you’ll sign a one-year agreement but not automatically go to the month-to-month, because automatically going to the month-to-month will start to invoke the RTA process.
And you view it both for protection of the landlord and the renter. This one-year period is a period to see whether the relationship…. In a tenant or renter case, for most small business landlords — not the multinationals or the big property owners but the small business ones who are really trying to get the best tenant — this is a good check to ensure that you’re a match.
In my personal case, I viewed it as a way to give back. We, for years and years, have given below-market rent in a house or two houses because we could give someone a leg-up. We could give them a chance, and we’d know that they’d be there and they’d take care of the property for a long, long time.
I mean, some members here would think it kind of odd if I said that we rented a four-bedroom house for a $1,000 a month. That is what we did here, because it covered our costs, it gave people a break, and it allowed us to protect ourselves for the future and our children in this escalating real estate market.
With that said, we can look to those bad apples. Those bad apples have taken this and made it into a crisis, and I have no sympathy for that.
People taking advantage of other people because of a difficult time in affordability is wrong at a fundamental level, which is why ultimately I support this bill, with the caveat that I’ll explore at committee stage some of the attempts that government will take to actually ensure that the rental tenancy office is resourced properly, so that delays are not there for the sake of delays, that people can get responses for concerns in a timely fashion, that landlords and renters are protected. Because ultimately, I think the collective view here is we want to make this system better.
As we know, there’s a small minority of these landlords who’ve been engaged in this business. And again, for those out there, other landlords, we really need to turn to those irresponsible landlords and say: “You know what? This is your fault.” Government has responded, as it must respond, to a crisis that was created by irresponsible landlords taking advantage of a system. For that, again, I come back to the reason why ultimately I think this is an important bill to support.
In terms of the enforcement laws, this too is important. The amendments that are being proposed will allow the branch to more strongly enforce the tenancy laws. Again, this is important because they will be able to compel the production of documents as part of penalty investigations, publish penalty decisions, refuse to accept an application for dispute resolution if an administrative penalty is owed and pursue prosecution where penalties have been levied but there is still no compliance.
This largely protects the renter, but there are clauses in here that do also protect the landlord with respect to administrative penalties if they have not been paid as well. Again, this is a good component of the legislation, which I’m very pleased to support.
Finally, when it comes to streamlining pet and damage deposits, again, this legislation…. I understand the need for doing it, but ultimately it comes back to the fact that those few bad apples out there have required such legislation be put in place.
The overwhelming majority of landlords take the return of pet and damage deposits very seriously. They follow due process. They ensure that they’re not retained for inappropriate means. To be blunt, the process, if the renter knows — going through the rental tenancy branch and the whole adjudication process — is very, very cumbersome, and nobody wants to do that. So the majority of landlords have been following process appropriately. But again, those bad apples have made this necessary.
I come to the compelling arguments put forward by the member for Vancouver–West End, who is in an area of Metro Vancouver with a very low vacancy rate, very high rental accommodations — frankly, a whole bunch of vacant places as well — and I hear his concerns. I hear his concerns, and I support the amendments, as we’ve seen fit to ensure that the retention of security deposits is not done inappropriately.
In conclusion, I support the intent of this bill to end the abuse of the current act by a small number of landlords who skirt rent controls and evict people from their homes if they won’t agree to large rent increases. I look forward to discussing the bill in committee stage and, in particular, exploring the means and ways the tenancy branch will actually be funded and the means and ways that will allow disputes to be dealt with in a timely fashion, and I look forward to listening to others in this second reading debate.