BC government to extend housing rent freeze through end of 2021

Mar 1 2021, 2:43 pm

The provincial government has announced plans to extend the current freeze on housing rents to December 31, 2021.

This is the second time any increase in rents has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the current freeze announced last November running up until July 10, 2021. The rent increase limit for 2021 was previously set at 1.4%.

Tenants who have received notice of a rent increase can disregard those notices.

Additionally, there will be changes to cap future rent increases to the rate of inflation starting in 2022, eliminate geographic rent hikes, and prevent evictions based on illegal renovations.

Landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before they can terminate a tenancy agreement for the purpose of renovating. This process is similar to the application system used by Ontario.

As well, landlords will be unable to end tenancies for renovations that are not substantial or do not require the rental unit to be vacant.

“The changes mean no more tenants will face eviction notices for phoney renovations that were never going to happen,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West-End, on behalf of David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, in a statement.

“By putting an end to this kind of bullying behaviour, meant to drive out long-term tenants and jack up the rent, we’re protecting renters and supporting rental housing providers who do proactive maintenance of their rental homes.”

Other changes will improve the “fairness” in the residential tenancy dispute resolution process by expanding grounds for the RTB to review arbitrator decisions.

All of these changes are deemed as steps to address the provincial government’s Rental Housing Task Force recommendations — on top of the protections first introduced in 2018.

While the latest supplemental changes still need to be passed in the legislature, the required approval is expected to be granted under the BC NDP’s majority government. If passed, the changes will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

David Hutniak, the CEO of LandlordBC, an advocacy and resource group for landlords, says his organization supports the changes.

“LandlordBC believes that encouraging continued investment to prolong or sustain the useful life of a rental unit or building is essential,” he said.

“We further believe that making the landlord proceed in this proposed manner, whereby legitimate cases where vacant possession is necessary and appropriate are adjudicated up front, will ensure work is undertaken in good faith, thereby mitigating what has at times been an unnecessarily confrontational process.”

Here is the history of BC’s previous maximum rent increases:

  • 2020: 2.6%
  • 2019: 2.5%
  • 2018: 4.0%
  • 2017: 3.7%
  • 2016: 2.9%
  • 2015: 2.5%
  • 2014: 2.2%
  • 2013: 3.8%
  • 2012: 4.3%
  • 2011: 2.3%
  • 2010: 3.2%
  • 2009: 3.7%
  • 2008: 3.7%
  • 2007: 4.0%
  • 2006: 4.0%
  • 2005: 3.8%

In contrast, the rate of inflation was 1.43% in 2016, 1.6% in 2017, 2.27% in 2018, and 1.95% in 2019.

The provincial government provided landlords with the ability to issue eviction notices for rent non-payment at the start of September 2020, ending a COVID-19 mitigation policy.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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