British Columbia

City of Victoria turns to bylaws to put a tighter rein on renovictions

Although the province recently strengthened protections to prevent renovictions, the City of Victoria is working on creating its own bylaws to control renovictions in the city.

The province recently strengthened protections to prevent renovictions but critics say gaps remain

Victoria's Inner Harbour is pictured here. The City of Victoria is looking at creating a bylaw to address what some say are gaps in the province's renoviction legislation. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press )

Although the province has introduced some protections for renters against renovictions, the City of Victoria is creating its own bylaws to control renovictions in the city. 

"For years, I have heard that people in our city and throughout the region are struggling to find housing that they can afford, particularly rental housing and there's a lot of concern and people are scared about losing the homes they currently have," said city councillor Jeremy Loveday.

"This is the city trying to augment the provincial legislation and provide a little more security for those renters in our city."

Renovictions —  a term used to describe when a landlord evicts a tenant by claiming that they will complete major renovations — have long been a problem in the region's red hot real estate and rental markets. 

Tenancy laws in British Columbia limit how much landlords can increase rent each year, but those rent controls only exist for the duration of a tenancy. As soon as the tenancy ends, the landlord can set a new rent for that unit. 

In March, the provincial government announced that landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before they can end a tenancy agreement for renovations

Landlords will also be unable to evict tenants for renovations that are not substantial or do not require the unit to be vacant. 

These changes took effect in July.

Previously, landlords were allowed to give notice and the onus was on the tenant to dispute it at the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Draft bylaw in the works

Loveday says the biggest gaps are a lack of support for displaced tenants that need to leave their apartments during renovations, and ensuring the housing unit is still affordable after its renovations. 

"Under the provincial protections, essentially the landlord can set the rate at whatever they like based on the fact that it's a new tenancy that is starting," he said. 

The proposed bylaw amendment would provide displaced tenants with assistance during renovictions and preserve affordability when the renovated unit is available.

Staff are currently working on a new draft bylaw that Loveday hopes will be ready to be presented to council soon and then to the public for feedback. 

Loveday says the city's work is similar to bylaws that were enacted in other municipalities — like Port Coquitlam and New Westminister — against renovictions.  

"We know that the housing crisis isn't just in Victoria. It is in cities across this province and beyond and we need to be looking to best practices from anywhere we can to combat that and provide the protections that people need."

With files from All Points West

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