Both tenants and landlords convened at a rental housing task force meeting in Vancouver June 27, 2018 and worked in groups to present issues and solutions landlords and tenants felt were contentious at some point during a tenancy. This meeting was the tenth of eleven that occurred across B.C. led by a three-member of parliament task force. The mandate of this task force is to make recommendations to the B.C. government on how to modernize the Residential Tenancy Act, particularly around issues of security and fairness.
A total of 30 stakeholder meetings are planned, including eleven community meetings – which completed on June 28, in Surrey. All community consultations have been completed, although written submissions can be made until end of day on July 6, 2018. After taking the summer to study the feedback and research options, a report is expected to be tabled in the fall. Implementation is expected to occur rapidly, with a target for Spring 2019.
According to a Vancouver Courier article, despite a reported waiting list for people to attend, renters seemed to outnumber landlords, particularly at the Vancouver meeting. The meeting appeared to have an “us against them” mentality, possibly due to the seating plan. Attendees sat at tables marked either renters or property managers/landlords. It was structured to limit dialogue between the groups, allowing the groups to brainstorm amongst themselves, and present the issues they faced, along with potential solutions. Afterwards, a handful of responses from each group were read aloud to let the other side know what concerns had arisen.
One attendee is reported in the Vancouver Courier article as saying: “One thing that makes me optimistic was a lot of the suggestions on the landlords’ and renters’ sides weren’t that much different.”
A REIN Member attended the meeting and states that both sides were concerned with the lack of supply of units in Vancouver. Other common ground included dissatisfaction with the outcome of proceedings in front of the tenancy board. They offered the following perspective on potential issues raised that the panel may provide recommendations:
"At the beginning of a tenancy, both sides found the screening of potential tenants a troublesome area, although renters report that landlords ask for too much information and they can face discrimination based on what information they provide. Tenants raised the issue of a lack of pet-friendly accommodations which ultimately stems from a lack of diversity in rental properties. Affordability, including high damage deposits were a concern for tenants, while Landlords reported feeling constrained by inconsistent municipal regulations and the current tenancy agreement."
During the maintenance phase of a tenancy, pets were a shared concern. Thereafter, the interests diverged, with tenants reporting they feared asking for repairs and/or were unclear who was responsible for repairs, a lack of privacy, and the rising cost of rents. Landlords faced challenges with tenants not complying with tenancy agreements, how to deal with shared utilities, and insufficient funds for rent.
At the end of a tenancy, damages and security deposit problems were highlighted by both sides. Tenants reported that in today’s low vacancy rate situation, they were being given insufficient notice to find new housing, whereas landlords reported they found agreements difficult to end. Overall, some landlords reported the incentives to rent out properties just isn’t there, which could be contributing to the shortage of rentals in BC.
A comical moment of the meeting came when landlords raised the issue of marijuana use in a unit. Given the changing laws and legalizing marijuana later this year, guidance for everyone involved needs to be provided, quickly.
As this was not just a griping session, participants were asked to provide possible solutions for the challenges they raised. Landlords asked for more resources of support for themselves, a registry for both landlords and tenants, streamlined arbitration, a repealing of the current tenancy agreement, increased damage deposits, and the ability to restrict tenants from smoking marijuana on the property. This group believes that relaxed zoning would increase supply, as would incentives from governments to supply housing. Fixed cleaning fees would make move-out day run more smoothly. Landlords also believe different rules need to be in place for furnished units. They further called for a prohibition on the tactics of “demo-victions” and “reno-victions” by other landlords.
Tenants also support a landlord and tenancy registration, as well as the end of unfair evictions in the name of renovations. They believe the government should be involved in creating housing supply. Much like the landlords, they requested support in terms of education. Tenants suggested the government can assist in making housing more affordable by offering tax credits, by limiting rent increases, increasing rent controls, and imposing financial penalties on bad landlords. They also reported that normal wear and tear to the unit wasn’t being recognized by landlords, and taken from the damage deposit, despite also having costs associated to cleaning carpets.
In short, tenants reported they felt there was a power imbalance, favouring landlords, while the landlords appear to feel a power imbalance exists favouring the tenant once in front of the arbitration board. An impartial observer can have compassion for both sides and see the validity of all concerns tabled.
With this much at stake with possible sweeping changes to the BC Residential Tenancy Act, it’s your last chance to “be the change”.
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