Province cracks down on tenancy law-breakers – whether renters or landlords

Ministry of housing sets up enforcement group, warns of fines of up to $5,000 a day

Glacier Media Real Estate
May 8, 2019

BC RTB enforcement task force Scott McGregor Selina Robinson Spencer Chandra Herbert
Scott McGregor (left), director of the Residential Tenancy Branch's enforcement unit, speaks about the new unit May 8, 2019, with housing minister Selina Robinson and rental housing task force chair Spencer Chandra Herbert — Province of B.C.

The Province of British Columbia is cracking down on landlords and renters who break tenancy laws by setting up a compliance and enforcement unit within the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), housing minister Selina Robinson announced at a media conference in Victora May 8.

Responding to findings from the Rental Housing Task Force, the role of the RTB’s enforcement unit will be to conduct investigations into repeat or serious offenders who break tenancy laws or fail to meet their contractual obligations.

Minister Robinson said, “What the rental housing task force heard from both renters and landlords is that too many people feel there are no repercussions for breaking tenancy law. That’s changing thanks to our new compliance and enforcement unit. When we hear about landlords who send out five, six, seven eviction notices to all their tenants for cosmetic upgrades, those landlords will hear from us. And when we hear about renters who scam landlords out of months of rent and then move on, those renters can expect a call as well.”

Scott McGregor has been appointed director of the enforcement unit, which currently comprises five staff members who have been working together for five weeks so far. The province said that the new team already has 21 active investigations and recently issued its first administrative penalty against a landlord.

Minister Robinson said that fines for repeated non-compliance could run to as much as $5,000 a day.

McGregor – whom Robinson dubbed “The Enforcer” – said, “The compliance unit is not the first stop [for people having a dispute with their landlord or tenant], as the RTB’s dispute resolution is often very effective. The compliance unit is reserved for those who feel the law doesn’t apply to them.”

Robinson added that since the NDP had started its housing reform program, call wait times at the RTB had fallen from an average of 45 minutes to five minutes.

Education program on tenancy laws

The province also announced a new public education program on residential tenancy laws. The housing ministry said in a statement, “The goal is to provide improved awareness for renters and landlords on their rights and responsibilities, which will reduce the number of cases ending up in arbitration. This enhanced public education will be supported through new funding to Landlord BC and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. Additional public education will focus on rules around renovictions, including new policy guidelines introduced last year, to help clarify the many situations when ending a tenancy would be unnecessary or illegal, and the limited situations when a rental unit needs to be vacant for renovations.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, Vancouver-West End MLA and chair of the Rental Housing Task Force, said, “Sometimes just getting information is enough to stop the bad behaviour. Renters and landlords told us that, in many cases, problems could have been avoided if people had known their rights and responsibilities.” He cited the case of a landlord in Kelowna who had sent out eviction notices due to renovations, who was informed that this was not allowed and removed the eviction notices.

The ministry said that with phase one work on implementing the Rental Housing Task Force recommendations under way, “Phase 2 work will include further actions by the end of 2019. Recommendations that require legislative changes, additional resources, stakeholder consultations or policy work, such as [changing laws on] rental restrictions in strata units, will be considered as part of Phase 3, with actions to come in 2020.”

Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Media Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, Times Colonist, Prince George Citizen, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also writes and oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condos & Homes, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 23 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist talk radio show on Vancouver's Roundhouse Radio.
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