British Columbia

B.C. tenant laws need overhaul to protect renters, say advocates

TRAC says the province's tenancy laws need an overhaul to better protect tenants' rights because there are too many loopholes allowing landlords to raise rents and not enough recourse for people who are 'renovicted.'

Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre also offering course to help renters impress landlords

The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre is calling on the government to overhaul tenancy laws. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

B.C.'s tenancy laws need an overhaul to better protect renters in Vancouver's housing market, according to the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.

Officials with TRAC say there are currently too many loopholes allowing landlords to raise rents substantially at the end of a lease, and not enough recourse for renters who get kicked out so landlords can list their units on sharing sites like Airbnb.

A report released by Vancity yesterday found that renting is no longer a viable alternative to home ownership for working millennials in Vancouver.

Jane Mayfield, acting executive director of TRAC, spoke with host Rick Cluff on the CBC's The Early Edition Friday morning.

Rick Cluff: We're hearing stories where landlords are saying 'every time you sign a lease we're considering you a new renter, which allows us to put the rent up.' Is that legal?

Jane Mayfield: We're hearing a lot of that lately. It's a bit of a grey area. The legislation and policy isn't quite clear, because it is true that rent can be set at any amount for a new tenant.

Jane Mayfield says there needs to be greater protections for renters and a re-examination of the rent control scheme in B.C. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

In our opinion, the practice is attempting to avoid provisions in the act to prevent large rent increases. 

We hear stories of landlords using leases like that to say that a tenant must move out, in order to get a tenant to move out without a valid reason for eviction.

We're hearing of bidding wars for vacant rental suites. Isn't that extortion?

I think its absolutely an abuse of the use of a lease. It puts an existing tenant in an incredibly difficult position, if that tenant were to more out, they probably couldn't find a find a unit for the same rent.

Right now rent control is tied to a tenancy rather than a unit. Given the really desperate situation we're seeing across B.C., we think this is an area the province should re-examine.

Airbnb yesterday released its own report saying it does not have an impact on the rental supply in the city. Do you buy that?

Not at all. We hear stories all the time from tenants who are evicted, to later find out that their landlord is renting the unit out on Airbnb, which is not a valid reason to evict a tenant.

We also know that there are landlords who do not bother renting to long-term tenants, and rent to short-term tenants right away.

You've put together an online course giving renters advice on how to stand out and make a good impression on a potential landlord. Has it really come down to winning landlords over with charm?

In the course we talk about things like writing a cover letter telling the landlord a little bit about yourself. If you have a pet, creating a pet resume.

You can order your own credit report, saves the landlord a bit of time and money. And the course does come with a certificate which can be used as a reference if you don't have a reference.

What more needs to be done to protect renters in Metro Vancouver?

The issue of supply needs to be addressed more aggressively. We need a better commitment to build rental housing, and we can look at ways to increase protections in the legislation, so giving tenants facing eviction greater protections like better compensation, moving costs, and re-examining the rent control scheme.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

now