British Columbia

Some B.C. tenants at risk of being evicted may not know it, says lawyer

B.C. landlords seeking enforcement of existing eviction orders can now take their orders to court, after months of being prohibited from evicting tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tenants who aren't able to pay rent due to the pandemic are still protected by government order

Effectively July 2, 2020, landlords in B.C. seeking enforcement of existing eviction orders can now take their orders to court.  (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. landlords seeking enforcement of existing eviction orders can now take their orders to court, after months of being prohibited from evicting tenants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Effective Thursday, landlords can obtain a writ of possession, allowing them have a tenant's belongings removed if they haven't vacated by the time period outlined in the order.

They can also serve documents in person, and enter a rental suite with 24-hour notice without the tenant's consent, but are expected to follow health guidelines, including physical distancing, cleaning and wearing masks when appropriate. 

But lawyer Danielle Sabelli, with the Community Legal Assistance Society, says tenants who are now at risk of being evicted were only given about a week's notice from when the government made the announcement to landlords being able to enforce the changes, leaving little time to secure a new living space.

Sabelli told Early Edition host Stephen Quinn there are concerns about about whether or not these changes were effectively communicated to tenants.

"There's still a fear that many tenants don't know that they can be evicted right now. They may think that [the] moratorium is in place for all evictions still," she said over the phone. 

Back in late March, B.C. announced it would provide a rental supplement of up to $500 per month for eligible people unable to pay rent due to the pandemic and also ordered a moratorium on most evictions during this time period. 

In June, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced landlords could give an eviction notice for anything except failure to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes if a new owner buys the property and wants to move in, for instance, or the tenant is endangering the landlord or other tenants or subletting the apartment without permission. 

Repaying the rent

In a statement, the province said it will be putting a framework in place that will require landlords to work with tenants to repay rent that is owing over a reasonable period of time.

Sabelli said given the concerns about the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the issue of tenants repaying their owed rent will be a long-term problem, if they're able to pay it back at all.

"With a second wave [of COVID-19] expected, we really have no idea when the economy is going to be able to recover," she said, noting the government should consider rent forgiveness for those who can't pay back the full amount in order to avoid mass homelessness.

The Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs announced in June it would extend the temporary rental supplement until the end of August to support renters and landlords during the pandemic. 

It also said it will give people advance notice before lifting the moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent due to COVID-19.

Click the link below to listen to the full interview.

Community Legal Assistance Society lawyer Danielle Sabelli speaks with Stephen Quinn about end of B.C.'s rental moratorium for those who weren't able to pay rent before March 30th. 9:48

With files from The Early Edition and Rhianna Schmunk

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