The British Columbia Rental Housing Task Force (RHTF) that was first appointed in April 2018 has just released its final report that recommends ways to modernize the province’s rental housing system.

The RHTF was established to conduct a review of the Residential Tenancy Act (which hasn’t been evaluated in 16 years) and come up with ways to improve rental security for landlords and tenants alike.

With an average rental vacancy of 1.3% across BC and a population of 1.5 million renters, updating the Act was deemed essential.

“The Rental Housing Task Force members have done a thorough and thoughtful job of capturing the concerns and needs of British Columbians in the rental housing market who have been ignored for many years,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“We are already seeing improvements in services from our recent investments in the Residential Tenancy Branch. This report identifies ways we could further improve the rental housing system that many British Columbians rely on.”

Here’s what the recommendations entail:

  • Stop renovictions
  • Work with local governments to develop tenant compensation and relocation guidelines in the case of demolition of purpose-built rental to reduce dislocation and homelessness of affected tenants.
  • Set a clear timeline for a tenant’s decision on the use of a right of first refusal.
  • Strengthen enforcement of the law, including implementing a clear process for making, investigating and reporting administrative penalty complaints.
  • Strengthen penalties for breaking the law, including refusal of service for outstanding administrative penalties.
  • Investigate ways to provide affordable access to bailiff services in smaller and more remote communities.
  • Investigate other options to increase the repayment rate for damages, non-payment of rent and other storage costs if ordered by the residential tenancy branch.
  • Increase the availability of currently empty strata housing by eliminating a strata corporation’s ability to ban owners from renting their own strata units.
  • Maintain rent tied to the renter, not the unit.
  • Work with local governments to develop, implement and enforce short-term rental rules to better protect long-term rental stock.
  • Make the residential tenancy branch more responsive, accessible and proactive with more opportunities to learn from and educate landlords and renters on their rights and responsibilities.
  • Improve fairness and consistency of the residential tenancy branch dispute resolution hearings process by recording all hearings.
  • Improve procedural fairness by expanding review considerations to include more grounds for review.
  • Require landlords who are filing for eviction for cause, or for renovation, to provide all evidence with any eviction notice to the affected tenants.
  • If repairs are needed to maintain a rental home and the landlord is refusing to make them in a timely way, have the residential tenancy branch proactively reduce the rent of affected tenants until the repairs are completed.
  • Allow email as a form of notice of service between landlord and tenants.
  • Speed up the return of damage deposits to tenants by allowing tenants to make a direct request to the residential tenancy branch for the damage deposit where no damage has been found and reported to the landlord.
  • Work with the insurance industry to see if rent guarantee insurance, and other improvements to insurance coverage, might be provided for landlords in B.C.
  • Undertake a review to simplify the regulations relating to a landlord’s obligation to store abandoned personal property.
  • Ensure it is clear for all landlords and renters where to go to get help for all forms of residential tenancy.
  • Address the specific needs of non-profit housing and supportive housing providers in the residential tenancy act.
  • Ensure manufactured home park rules are clear and understandable. Clarify what occurs when park rules conflict with lease or contract rules.

In September 2018, the task force released a preliminary report that led to the province reducing the allowable rent increase from 4.5% to 2.5%, with an exception to allow for modest increases where work has been done to improve rental properties.

Before unveiling their final report, the RHTF spoke to renters, landlords, and stakeholders in 11 communities across the province. They also took into account over 430 written submissions and more than 1,400 responses to its online survey.

These recommendations will now be forwarded to Premier John Horgan and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selena Robinson to be reviewed.