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UPDATE: Three bills to protect tenants

NDP pushing for tenants' rights in BC

 UPDATE: June 3, 4:30pm

Xtra’s request for an interview with housing minister Rich Coleman remains unfulfilled, but a spokesperson for the ministry sent a statement saying, “The current Residential Tenancy Act strikes a balance between the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants.”
Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, which, according to the statement, “strikes a good balance between the rights and responsibilities of owners and residents.”

In response to Spencer Chandra Herbert’s bill to protect long-term tenants, the statement says:

• The current provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act balance the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenants.
• The current Act allows landlords to raise rent once per year by the inflation rate plus two per cent.
• To obtain a higher rent increase, landlords must apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch and demonstrate the market warrants their proposed increase in rent.
•The current Act establishes clear and acceptable reasons, notice periods and compensation for instances where a landlord requires vacant possession of a rental unit.
• If tenants believe a notice to end tenancy is not valid, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to resolve the dispute.

• Tenants can dispute decisions of the Residential Tenancy Branch on rent increases through the BC courts — as they have successfully done in the past.

• Landlords must give tenants two months’ notice and one month’s rent as compensation when requiring vacant possession.

Three private member’s bills aimed at providing renters with more rights were introduced in the BC legislature on June 1.

Spencer Chandra Herbert, gay NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Diane Thorne, and NDP housing critic Shane Simpson each introduced amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) which, if passed, will provide a greater balance between the rights of landlords and tenants, New Democrats say.

The bills tackle “renovation evictions” and geographic rent increases, and address concerns with the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

Also under the proposed changes, landlords would be required to provide more notice in a case of renovation eviction, tenants would receive the right of first refusal over the unit or converted strata, and more time would be allotted to tenants to pay overdue rent and dispute an eviction.

Chandra Herbert’s proposed Long-Term Tenants Protection Act would amend the geographic area increase clause and close the loopholes in the RTA that allow landlords to raise rents above what is allowed annually.

Chandra Herbert introduced the bill in 2008 but it never moved past first reading. He hopes reintroducing the bill will draw attention to the importance of protecting long-term tenants from unreasonable eviction.

“I’m never going to give up,” he says. “It’s hurting too many people’s lives. The evidence is clear, there needs to be a change.”

Chandra Herbert suspects it won’t be until fall, if at all, that the bills go to a second reading.

He says some Liberals seemed unresponsive when the bills were brought to the floor.

“Some Liberal members weren’t paying attention at all,” he alleges.

“They will only ram through the HST,” he says. “They won’t ram through a bill to protect renters.”

Requests to speak with housing minister Rich Coleman were not granted prior to posting.