Concerned B.C. tenants, landlords still waiting on allowable rent increase for 2023
Province promised allowable increase number in July, with deadline on Oct. 1 to increase rent in January
With an administrative deadline looming and affordability dwindling, concern is mounting from tenants and landlords in B.C. about the allowable rent increase for 2023.
Landlords are allowed to increase rents only once a year and must give tenants notice of three months about their annual rent increase.
For an increase in rent for Jan. 1, notices must be received by Oct. 1.
David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, which represents more than 3,000 property owners or managers in the province, says it is one of the issues his members are concerned about with the province yet to announce the increase, which was promised in July.
"Many of our members who have larger portfolios, that is a huge exercise so certainly we are concerned from a logistical perspective that our members are able to provide appropriate notice to their tenants," he said.
Hutniak said his members were disappointed by an announcement two weeks ago from B.C. Attorney General and Housing Minister Murray Rankin that the allowable rent increase, when it comes, will be below the rate of inflation.
Rent increases in B.C. are determined by a formula which is the 12-month average per cent change in the all-items Consumer Price Index for B.C. over the year, ending in July.
That number is 5.4 per cent in B.C., with the unadjusted rate of inflation at eight per cent compared to last year.
Hard to budget
Hutniak says he would not be surprised if the province announced an increase of 2.5 to three per cent, but constantly having to guess creates hardship for his members.
"The fact that the province does not adhere to that formula creates a lot of uncertainty," he said. "It's hard for operators to budget and for anybody considering building rental properties here."
Hutniak said landlords and property managers had to stretch the increases that were allowed over the past three years, which included a rent freeze that began in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rents were allowed to increase 2.6 per cent in 2020 — before the rent freeze was imposed in March of that year, zero in 2021 due to the pandemic and 1.5 per cent in 2022.
The allowable increase for 2022 was announced on Sept. 8 last year.
Rankin's office on Friday told CBC News in an email that "government is finalizing the details of what the rent cap will be and will have more to say in the days ahead so that people have the information they need."
It previously said the increase would balance affordability for tenants and landlords' ability to maintain properties.
'The stress of not knowing'
Dawne Pierce, 60, is a retired renter in the Lower Mainland who is waiting on how much more she will have to pay in 2023.
"We don't have any issues with rent increases, but I think right now it's the stress of not knowing what it's going to be."
She and her partner have already cut back on expenses to cope with inflation and high food and gas prices, such as cancelling subscriptions to streaming services.
"We decided that we were going to start cutting the fat a little bit," she said.
She said if the rent increase was 5.4 per cent, it could force others in her complex, many who are retired on fixed incomes, to cut back on other expenses as well.
"Where is the extra … going to come from?" she said.
In announcing the allowable rent increase, whenever it comes, there is hope the B.C. NDP makes good on a renters rebate promised in 2017, and again in 2020 to offset rising rents, but yet to be distributed.
Ahead of the 2020 election, the B.C. NDP's platform had households earning up to $80,000 a year getting $400 a year.
"In our conversations with the province, with the minister, we've suggested that it would be a really good timing and really good policy frankly to make that promised renter rebate," said Hutniak.
In March the province announced a rebate of $110 to ease the financial burden of increased gas prices.