B.C. New Democrats take action to protect renters from renovictions

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Vancouver_BCVICTORIA— New Democrat deputy housing spokesperson, Melanie Mark, introduced a bill that would provide renters in B.C. with urgently needed protection from evictions as a result of renovations.

“I’ve heard first-hand from British Columbians who have been unfairly evicted from their homes and seen their rent raised beyond what they can afford, all because landlords are exploiting loopholes in the law,” said Mark. “These renovictions are contributing to the housing crisis in our province, and my bill, the Protection from Renoviction Act, offers a solution.

“New Democrats have introduced this legislation in previous years, yet the B.C. Liberal government has refused to let it pass. I sincerely hope they will say yes this time and allow it to move forward.”

Mark’s bill proposes much needed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act. If the Christy Clark government chooses to support this bill, renters who are evicted due to renovations would have more time to find another place to live. Renters would be given the right of first refusal and their rent wouldn’t increase beyond the maximum yearly amount. Finally, the bill protects renters by giving them more time to pay overdue rent, or challenge the renoviction.

“The changes I am calling for protects renters in a way that’s fair and reasonable to landlords,” said Mark. “I hope that the Christy Clark government recognizes the importance of balance in the rental market by supporting this bill.”

Validator Quotes

“We’re meant to have three basic things: food, water and shelter. They took my shelter from me. I lived in the same building for 32 years, and when I found out I was being renovicted, I felt panic and fear. I was scared I wouldn’t find somewhere to live in a short time period, and I’d end up living in tent city. At first, in desperation, I signed a year lease that I knew I couldn’t afford. Luckily, I managed to find an affordable place in my same neighbourhood. I don’t want other people to feel the same anxiety and dread that I did when I was renovicted. Our laws need to change.”

–          Roberta Robson, renovated tenant

“With vacancy rates at unhealthy levels and aging buildings deteriorating across B.C., it is vital that the province take action to improve the legal protections of residential tenants being displaced by renovictions. These proposed amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act would be a step in the right direction towards ensuring that landlords can still meet their legal obligation to maintain their buildings, while also improving the rights of tenants being evicted, at no fault of their own, in an increasingly challenging rental housing market.”

– Andrew Sakamoto, Executive Director, TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre

“As an organization that is largely made up of renters, BC ACORN is painfully aware of the power imbalance that exists between landlords and tenants. This imbalance is made worse by many provisions within the current RTA. For years, our low and moderate income membership has been calling on the current government to make significant amendments to the act that would give both renters and landlords a fair deal. The B.C. New Democrats’ proposed amendments regarding the process for renovating a suite, increasing notice to tenants & compensation for tenants, and extending the periods for paying overdue rent and disputing eviction notices are all very positive first steps in that direction. In particular, ACORN members support the proposed requirement to force landlords to provide proof that all relevant permits and approvals required by law are in place. Our membership hopes the government will accept and implement these amendments, and then work with the opposition to bring about rent control tied to the suite (as opposed to a tenancy) and introduce reforms to end tenant harassment.”

– Melanie Skoco, Chair of the New Westminster chapter and member of the BC ACORN provincial board

“Renters were recently renovicted from twenty-three Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residential hotels in the Downtown Eastside. Rents that, just a few years ago, were $375 a month at maximum welfare rate are now $500, $600, $700 and one is now renting rooms for $1500 a month! In response, the city changed the SRA Bylaw so that future SRO renters can go back to their rooms at the same rent after minor renovations which isn’t quite working because landlords can find other reasons to evict tenants or take advantage of the turnover in SROs in order to increase the rents of new tenants moving in. Having said this, the New Democrats’ proposed amendments are still good and an important first step for renters all over the province. We look forward to working with everyone on the next steps which we hope will be stronger rent control based on the Montreal model (where landlords cannot raise their rents between tenancies) so that all renters can put down roots and enjoy the social benefits of stable, long-term housing.”

– Wendy Pedersen, Coordinator, Downtown Eastside Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Collaborative

“The City of Vancouver’s Renters Advisory Committee supports these proposed measures to curb the use of renovictions as a means to evict tenants and increase rents above what would normally be lawful. Fifty one per cent of Vancouver households are renters, and measures like these that protect the affordability of existing rental stock are urgently needed in our city. These proposals are in line with the comprehensive set of reforms to the Residential Tenancy Act we urged the Provincial government to adopt last fall – proposals that are long overdue and would help modernize our rental policies to more closely match other leading jurisdictions across Canada.”

– Alvin Singh, Chair of the City of Vancouver’s Renters Advisory Committee