(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Yesterday in the Legislature I had a very productive exchange with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing during committee stage of Bill 16: Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act, 2017. As noted in my second reading speech, I felt it was important to highlight some potential unforeseen consequences of passing this important piece of legislation. In particular, I focused on the issue of short, fixed-term leases that are sometimes used by landlords to protect not only landlords from bad renters but also other tenants (in the same building or suite) as well.

More details are developed in the exchange reproduced in video and text below. I appreciated the thoughtful responses from the Minister.


Video of Exchange



Text of Exchange


A. Weaver: I thank the member opposite for raising this issue at this particular section. I was going to raise a similar issue at a subsequent section, as it does come in at numerous places.

I want to start by commending government for actually addressing an issue that clearly is an important issue and for providing additional resources to the rental tenancy process, because it is a very burdensome process.

I do want to bring forward the concerns that were just expressed. It is an issue that I raised at second reading too. The problem is that, I suspect,  there are a lot of unforeseen consequences that might arise if this is not thought through in its entirety.

I give an example, and the member opposite, the member for Vancouver–False Creek, highlighted a number. One is, let’s suppose hypothetically, that you have a rental agreement with a number of renters, and these renters are living in the same quarters. The problem is that when you sign an agreement, you’re actually protecting other renters as well as the landlord. By signing a short-term agreement, you might have multiple people with tenancy agreements sharing rooms in a basement suite, and in fact, what’s critical is that you ensure that there’s a relationship not only between the landlord and the tenant but between the tenants themselves.

Now, we understand that there is a process to go through this by appealing, etc. But it is so burdensome, it is so impossible…. I mean, those who have had to try to remove a tenant, even with damage or not paying rent, can issue all the eviction notices they want, but the reality is that it’s very, very difficult to evict a bad tenant as it stands.

The beauty of a short term…. When I’m talking a short term — I think the member for Vancouver–False Creek and I have discussed this — we’re talking three months, four months. What we’re thinking here is that you’re giving a short-term contract — this would be all done in a regulatory fashion, obviously — which would allow for renewal but no increase in rent attached to the unit.

What this does is…. The advocacy groups were trying to attach rental increases to a unit. That, obviously, is not going to work, for a variety of reasons. However, you could take what they’re suggesting for a short-term lease of three months, say, and say that the rent cannot increase if the tenancy is a fixed-term lease for three months. Then, in fact, the rent increase is attached to the unit.

I’m wondering if the minister might consider this, as she discusses with civil servants, as a means and ways of protecting not only landlords from bad renters but other tenants as well. By having — pick a number; say, three months…. You will allow three-month fixed-term leases, but there can be no rent increase if a lease is terminated after three months. The rent must remain fixed at the previous value. This would allow landlords and other tenants to be protected in the case of an inappropriate relationship or a tenant who’s created some issues.

Hon. S. Robinson: Part what I’m hearing, actually, makes things more unstable for renters in terms of this idea that unless they’re on their best behaviour and no one complains about them, then they don’t know for three months whether or not they actually will have a place to live after 90 days. That creates more instability and, I think, more terror for the more than 1½ million renters in British Columbia.

There are provisions in the act that allow a landlord, should there be a problem tenant…. Even if it is with other tenants in the building or in the basement suite or whatever the arrangement is, there is an opportunity to have that tenant removed. That currently does exist in the act.

A. Weaver: With respect, again, I reiterate that every landlord in the province of British Columbia understands that there’s a process, but heaven forbid you actually have to enter into this process, because the process is very prejudicial, in my view and in many people’s view, against the landlord.

You could have tenants who are not paying rent for months. Try to get a tenant out if they haven’t paid rent for three months. You can get the sheriffs involved. It’s very, very difficult, even with the existing rules, because of the lack of teeth to those rules in a manner that actually allows the landlord to evict those bad tenants.

So I appreciate, again, the potential for uncertainty. But the reality is, I would argue, there wouldn’t be uncertainty because right now landlords are using such clauses for short-term reasons, and they’re using them for precisely the reasons articulated by the member for Vancouver–False Creek. It’s just to test rental situations.

The single most important thing for a landlord is to ensure that they get a tenant who will be there for a long term. Every landlord wants to get the tenant who will never move out, because when they get such a tenant, they’re not painting the walls again, they’re not replacing this. They’ve got a stable tenant.

We’re talking about a few landlords and a few tenants in all regards here, but we’re focused entirely on the tenants who’ve been abused, frankly, by those few landlords who’ve created the need for this regulation. But I worry that if we’re not thinking about those few bad tenants as well and about protecting landlords, we could create troubles down the road.

I’m not going to belabour this, because we’re going back and forth. But I urge the minister, with her staff, to seriously reflect upon the comments made by the member for Vancouver–False Creek as well as these comments, as you move forward, to ensure that good landlords are protected — not just by having to go through this abyss of a process to get rid of bad tenants — and supported as well.

There is a danger here. In having a long conversation with the various associations and one particular association involved with landlords, there’s a lot of concern in the province of British Columbia about this from landlords, good landlords — forget the bad landlords; from good landlords — and that’s why I urge caution.

Hon. S. Robinson: I take the member’s concerns quite seriously, and our government does. That’s why we have increased funding to the residential tenancy branch significantly, with an additional $7 million over the next few years. And we are developing a compliance unit that will deal with challenging tenants and challenging landlords to make sure that is addressed, because we have heard that landlords need some teeth for the act. So we’re also making sure that we’re strengthening the administrative penalties.

We’ve heard that feedback, and we’re strengthening the act. We’re strengthening the ability of the residency tenancy branch to do its job as it’s supposed to. We’re also simplifying the process for accessing the residential tenancy branch and getting the help that it needs, and we’re going to be monitoring it closely. I have asked for feedback to make sure that it is doing what it’s supposed to do.

At the end of the day, this is about managing relationships. We know that a landlord-tenant agreement is a relationship, and we want it to work. I think they do work most of the time. When things do go sideways, it’s important to have an outside body that can either help manage that relationship or help dissolve the relationship.

The act has in it times in which you can dissolve that relationship. Making sure that we have a robust residential tenancy branch that has the capacity to do its job is very, very important, and we’re going to be monitoring it closely.

A. Weaver: I just wanted to thank the minister for her thoughtful response to the questions.

4 Comments

  1. Paul Darquin-Reply
    November 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Adding to Lori Ann’s comments, I rent a suite in my house as a mortgage helper. It is not intended as a profit making venture, just as a way to afford paying the mortgage. If we decided to stop renting the suite due to our experience with a bad tenant, it would not only be one less rental available in the market, but possibly two, as we would be forced to sell, and possibly become tenants ourselves, thus losing the suite we were renting out, and the one we may be taking another suite away from another renter looking for a place to live, We have had a bad tenant, that we tried to evict for cause, one that is specifically allowed, and has a checkbox for, on the RTB eviction notice form. The tenant disuted the eviction, telling me that he is doing so because I was threatening the livelihood of his family, since he found out we were charging about $500/month less than market value. The arbitrator, who is supposed to rule on the facts of the case, agreed that he shouldn’t have done what he did, and the numerous other things he did to intimidate and annoy us, but wrote in her decision that the tenant was merely misguided (which he wasn’t), and ruled in his favour, allowed him to stay, and we had to repay him the $100 dispute filing fee. Despite winning, the tenant became vindictive and to run up our water bill, ran the water to the point that the septic system could not handle it and so flooded the basement, ran up the hydro, which we included in the low rent, by leaving lights on even when not home, and turned the bathroom fans on 24/7, this in Ictober, November, and December last year, both fans 19 cubic feet of air vented every minute, so 38 cubic feet of heated air vented outside every minute, forcing the furnace to run full time, we did finally manage to evict him, but without a vacate clause, we may not have been able to do so. As far as your discussion in the Legislature, we used to start with 6 month leases then going to month to month, thinking we didn’t want to have tenants that didn’t want to stay, but didn’t want to turn around and have to find new tenants any sooner than that. Because of this tenant, we realized that the month to month tenancies, where tenants can give a one month notice to leave, but it is basically a lifetime committment on the landlord’s part is an absolutely unfair system, ckearly protecting the tenant with no concern for protecting the landlord. We realized our only way out from a bad tenant may be the vacate clause, since case after case has proven that a landlord can’t rely on the RTB to allow an eviction even with causes that tha RTB claims are the few valid reasons to evict. With my experience, I am realky concerned how many rentals will be taken off the market if the vacate clause is taken away, and can guarantee it will only make the vacancy rate worse where possible, and homelessness higher where the vacancy rate is already close to zero.

  2. Jocelyn Airey-Reply
    November 12, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Mr. Weaver As a landlord in Kelowna I appreciate your attempt to “go to bat” for us however I feel it was not enough and frankly too weak.
    I have written the Minister (twice) with my concerns and have yet to see a response. I am saddened by this process and it’s lack of concern for landlords.
    Many of us are very seriously considering selling our rental properties because the risk is now too great.
    Consider where all of these renters will live if we stop renting. The province needs good landlords and good landlords NEED the tools to protect our investments and our other tenants.
    Please consider my words and take a strong stance to protect BC landlords. It seems you you may be the only one trying to stand up for us and as I said before it wasn’t nearly enough.

  3. November 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

    In my 10 years of renting to people the cost to deal with bad tenants is very high. I have had squaters, junkie and and. I ususally ask them to stay for the year as that ususally covers the damages. i want to have them committed to a year and then we review. I ususally try not to rasie the rent. All The good tenant thinks its clean when they leave especially men and its still ususally requires at least 5 to 7 hours to clean and repair. I plan on adding a cleaning fee its absolutely nessary as I know have to hire someone. I have had the RTB order to give back a deposit when the teants have damaged new carpet and multiple huge holes in walls that cant just be repaired like dry wall after a while its hard to keep the place up. How ever created debt to do so. One guy at the age of 25 moved in, got three more women pregnant, last child taken at birth were on drugs and becasue parinod and broke in to the rental, got a dog and keot inside and left with now forwarding address it was over 5000$ in damage. Police said i was lucky they left they were fraudsters. Then there was the girl that let her cat scratch every door way and poop on both new carpets no forwarding address. I just didnt bother spending my time on negative with the RTB casue is unhealthy and stressfull process. Have can I go after then anyhow, they they threaten. The one guys mom came and looked and said wow they lived like anaimals and took the white carpet and garbage at least. With this two alone as well as buying the rentals I am in negtive $ but taxes paid and insurnace but to impoved my water I cant spend 20000 on a more filtering casue My focus wasnt on having a job to pay. Then there was a women that let her hime be infested with rats and neglected her animals and we were no alowed in casue she owned it, had to hand demo and take a 10000 loss. The 7 million coukd be put toward helping landlords. With major damage, water systems. More fines wont help a registery, reporting teants not paying and holding then accountable might help, attch to theyee drivers lience or being able to call police when its been vandalism happens.

  4. Lori Ann-Reply
    November 11, 2017 at 8:14 am

    If I understand your example correctly, Mr. Weaver, you are referring to independant tenants, each having their own rental agreement with the landlord, but who each rent a bedroom with a shared common space in a “basement suite”? This is, under the law, a “rooming house”.
    ROOMING HOUSES ARE NOT COVERED UNDER THE RESIDNETIAL TENANCY ACT.
    A better example is of a homeowner who has a single secondary suite in the house that they themselves occupy. The mandatory move out clause at the end of the fixed term lease, whatever the length of that lease, protects the good landlord/homeowner in a number of situations. Without it, a homeowner will be unable to evict tenants who create health hazards and disturbances in the landlord’s own homes, which are difficult to prove. Things like smoking or lighting candles, creating fire hazards and allergy hazard. We saw how a burning candle killed the occupants of a house recently in our island. But a landlord is not allowed to do camera surveillance, so cannot prove that their tenants are breaching open flame or smoking regulations. In the meantime, the landlord’s child is in hospital with life threatening asthma from smoke or the landlord cannot live in their own house due to smoke allergy, or worse, the house is burned down by the tenants. With no chance to evict under the RTB, because the landlord can’t prove it. Or things like a tenant who plays loud music all day long, leaving their stereo on even when they are not home. Bylaw officers will not enforce a noise complaint coming from within one’s own home (try it and see how far you get), so the landlord is stuck for years with such a tenant who makes life miserable for the homeowner and their family, and no chance to evict. Or the tenant who does not remove garbage and is in general a poor housekeeper, generating smells and mess and eventually destroying the homeowner’s property. Again, unless it is so bad that the whole property gets condemned by the health inspector (which deprives the landlord of their home as well), the homeowner cannot evict such a tenant. Or the tenant who is an intravenous drug user or meth user or other addict, where the homeowner has small children, who then cannot be safe in their own home due to fumes, careless discarding of needles, etc. There are many examples of such situations where the RTB has found for the tenant and allowed them to stay in their chosen destructive and unhealthy lifestyle, in the meantime destroying the life and property of the landlord.
    I represent a group of tenants and landlords ina colaition on a FaceBook Group. Dozens of landlords in our group, which is Vancouver Island Based, have said they will close down their rental suites in their own homes if the mandatory move out clause, which is a Mutually agreed upon clause for both renter and landlord, is removed from the act. DOZENS. In the Victoria market, this is going to have a significant impact on the already low vacancy rate. Since owner home secondary suites tend to have much lower rents than those in commercial buildings, it will also have an impact on the average rent.

Leave A Comment