B.C. Rent freeze extended until July 2021
The province is extending last year’s rent freeze until July 10, 2021, which has some landlords in B.C. raising concerns.
The freeze was originally put in place in March and was set to expire on Dec. 1 until the provincial government announced the extension on Nov. 9.
The newly elected NDP government called the freeze an “interim measure to provide stability and advance notice for renters while a new cabinet is sworn in.”
“Increases set to happen on Dec. 1, 2020, are cancelled, along with all pending increases through to July,” reads a statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
After the freeze ends the maximum limit at which rent can increase is 1.4 per cent. Landlords must also give three months notice before increasing rent.
“Extending the rent increase freeze is good news for renters in B.C. Given the disproportionate financial impact that COVID-19 has had on renters in the province, exempting them from further rent increases is a positive step,” said Robert Patterson, a lawyer for Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
However, this is a small step that doesn’t go far enough according to Patterson.
“We are hopeful that the government, having received a stronger mandate in the recent election, will take further steps to protect the housing and health of renters as we enter a challenging new chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Patterson said.
There are a number of things the NDP government should do to protect renters, Patterson said, including reinstating the moratorium on evictions, reinstating a tenant’s right to restrict access to their homes and considering other measures such as rent forgiveness and direct financial support.
“That can both get tenants out from these crushing debt loads and also help small landlords who are in financial hardship themselves because their tenants could not afford to pay rent,” Patterson said of financial assistance for tenants.
Landlord B.C., an advocacy group for landlords, expressed a number of concerns about the extension of the rent freeze in a statement.
“Our sector is on a negative financial trajectory and we need support for rental property owners. While not insensitive to the challenges many renters have faced during the pandemic, the reality is that our sector has also been challenged with significant disruptions, risks and costs as a result of the pandemic,” the statement says.
“In the absence of rent increases for existing tenancies to better cover cost inflation like taxes, utilities, insurance, maintenance, etc., our financial challenges will be further exacerbated and threaten our ability to ensure British Columbians have continued access to safe, secure, sustainable rental housing.”
The freeze also includes a mandate for landlords to develop a repayment plan for any unpaid rent or utilities from the period of March 18 to Aug. 17 of 2020. Landlords are prevented from evicting tenants for any missed payments during this period as long tenants make the payments under the repayment agreement.
The repayment plan must follow several guidelines including having the payments be in equal instalments with each payment to be paid on the same date that rent is due under the tenancy agreement. The date the first instalment is due must also be at least 30 days after the date the repayment plan is given by the landlord to the tenant.