The final recommendations from British Columbia’s Rental Housing Task Force are complete, and the provincial government now must mull what changes to make to the Residential Tenancy Act.
While the list of recommendations is long — 23 separate points — it is short on details, leaving it to the provincial government to conduct more research and hone specific legislation.
Some of the recommendations benefit landlords. For example, the Task Force proposes loosening the requirements on storing abandoned property. While members do not suggest specific changes, they did note that the current requirement that landlords save property valued at over $500 for up to 60 days is onerous.
The Task Force also sided with landlords on a tenant proposal to extend rent caps to cover units, not specific tenants, which would have prevented landlords from increasing rent should a tenant leave. Members were persuaded that such a move would put on damper on investment in rental housing.
The members recommend expanding a rent bank that could loan money to tenants in financial distress, so landlords could continue to receive rent payments. Another suggestion is exploring rent insurance programs which could guarantee rent payments if the tenant experiences certain hardships. The Task Force also recommends that the legislature look at ways to provide bailiff services in smaller towns and rural areas where it currently is difficult to complete evictions.
At the same time, the recommendations include material changes to the rules regarding renovations, encouraging the legislature to require landlords to conduct remodeling with tenants remaining at the property. The members conclude that most changes can be made while accommodating tenants.
Tenants also are likely to benefit most from the recommendation to add more grounds for review of dispute resolution decisions. That could further impede a landlord from recovering a unit from a tenant who is not paying rent. The members propose creating a “fast-track” process for tenants seeking return of a damage deposit where the landlord has not filed for dispute resolution in order to claim deductions. Earlier, the Task Force pushed for a decrease in the annual rent increase guideline, which will cost landlords 2% in 2019.
Other recommendations are aimed at expanding rental stock and include restricting short-term vacation rentals and clearing the way for strata owners to offer their properties for rent.
The Task Force encourages the province to modernize the dispute resolution process by allowing delivery of documents via email.
The full report, including a summary of public engagement entitled “What We Heard” (Appendix A), can be found here.
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