British Columbia

As Port Coquitlam limits renovictions, advocates wonder why province won't act on issue

Rental advocates and some municipalities are wondering why the province isn't moving faster to pass legislation that would stop the practice of renoviction province-wide, three months after its Rental Housing Task Force urged action on the issue.

PoCo bylaw requires landlords to find tenants similar accommodation at similar price

Sue Robinet motions to the building she and dozens of other tenants lived in until August 2018, when they were 'renovicted.' (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Port Coquitlam city council unanimously passed a bylaw amendment that would protect tenants from being forced out of their homes for renovations and later charged a higher rent — a practice known as "renoviction."

The rule change follows New Westminster's adoption of a bylaw in February that fines landlords caught evicting tenants for purely cosmetic upgrades.

But rental advocates and some municipalities are wondering why the province isn't moving faster to pass legislation that would stop the practice of renoviction province-wide, three months after its Rental Housing Task Force urged action on the issue.

"I don't think [the province] is moving quickly enough and I don't think it's doing enough," said Sue Robinet, who was evicted from her Vancouver apartment of 17 years in August 2018.

She said the landlord insisted the building complex on East Pender Street needed renovations, and evicted residents of all 22 units.

"Tenants need to be respected. These are our homes," said Robinet, who advocates for renters in her position with the Vancouver Tenants Union.

She says some of her elderly neighbours are still struggling to find a place after the evictions.

An advocate with the Vancouver Tenants Union says she and other residents of this building on East Pender Street in East Vancouver were renovicted back in August and the building has remained empty since. In Port Coquitlam and New Westminster, local governments are taking action on renovictions. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End, says he's hoping for action on renovictions as soon as possible. 

Chandra Herbert is chair of the province's Rental Housing Task Force, which, last December, made 23 recommendations on how to improve B.C.'s rental market. At the top of the list was stopping renovictions.  

"I've been fighting for action my whole time as an elected official because people are losing their homes and they shouldn't have to," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Chandra Herbert says he's following up with the Ministry of Housing for an update. 

Province reviewing recommendations

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the task force's recommendations are being reviewed.

The province enacted its own measures to clamp down on renovictions last year, including requiring landlords to provide increased notice for evictions due to renovation or repair, as well as offering those evicted the choice to move back in to the newly renovated units at the market rate when the evictions happened. 

"Last year we brought in some significant changes to the Residential Tenancy Act so we could make sure it was a fairer system. We're continuing to do that work with the recommendations," she said.

Robinson did not have an update on when changes to the act could be expected.

Municipalities taking action

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West has called the province's efforts "unsatisfactory."

"They went in tinkering around the edges," said West. "The part they missed was actually ending the practice of renovictions." 

He believes the government made a mistake by not going far enough and says cities must take their own measures to protect tenants.

The Port Coquitlam bylaw affects landlords — defined as individuals who run a suite-rental business with five or more units — who plan to do cosmetic renovations to their buildings.

Under the amendment, the landlord is required to temporarily accommodate the tenants elsewhere. When the renovations are finished, the tenant would be allowed to return at the same rental price.

Landlords also have the option of relocating tenants into a comparable unit, with the same number of bedrooms and a similar rent.

The model is based on New Westminster's protections against renovictions that were adopted in February.

'Exception versus the rule': Landlord B.C.

Landlords say in trying to halt renovictions, municipalities like New Westminster have gone too far. 

"The need to end tenancies to undertake renovations are generally the exception versus the rule," Landlord B.C.'s David Hutniak said in an emailed statement.

Hutniak says in circumstances where ending ending tenancies is necessary, the Residential Tenancy Branch provides tenants with protections to ensure the renovations are significant and consequential enough to justify the action.

"We are of the view that the City of New Westminster has responded in a manner outside its jurisdiction," he said.

With files from Polly Leger, Tina Lovgreen, Tanya Fletcher and CBC Radio One's The Early Edition

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