(Updated April 1, 2020 at 1:30 PM)
On March 30th, 2020, Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor, issued a ministerial order pursuant to the Emergency Program Act (the “Order”), which gives the relief measures for residential tenants announced on March 25, 2020 the force of law. A review of the relief measures can be found in the original article posted below.
The Order is in place as of March 30, 2020 and will remain in effect until the provincial state of emergency expires (currently set for end of day on April 14, 2020) or is cancelled. In addition to giving legal effect to the relief measures, the Order provides the following important details:
- Landlords must not give a notice to end tenancy for any reasons while the Order is in effect.
- If a landlord issued a notice to end tenancy before March 30, then the notice remains in effect and an order of possession may be granted to the landlord. However, a landlord may not enforce an order of possession while the Order is in effect, except in specific exceptional circumstances.
- Any notice to increase rent that was set to take effect after March 30 will not take effect until the state of emergency expires or is cancelled.
- If a landlord collects a rent increase while the Order is in effect, the tenant may deduct the rent increase from rent or otherwise recover the funds from the landlord.
- A landlord or tenant may apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for dispute resolution for a dispute relating to the Order.
No further details regarding how rent arrears will be treated or adjudicated by the Residential Tenancy Branch were provided.
This article should not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Please contact us for specific questions and advice about your situation and we would be happy to help you.
(Original Article – posted March 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM)
We expect many landlords and tenants to have questions as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and wish to provide a high-level summary of the latest residential tenancy changes for your information. Given the rapidly changing nature of the situation, we strongly encourage you to stay informed on the latest developments from our government and Public Health officials and to speak with us directly if you have a specific question or concern. This article should not serve as a substitute for legal advice.
Residential Tenancy Changes
On March 25, 2020, Premier John Horgan announced a number of measures aimed at helping tenants during the COVID-19 emergency:
- Eviction Suspension
- There is now a complete ban on all new notices to end tenancy for any reason; however, in exceptional cases where health and safety or undue damage to the property are at risk, landlords can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for an eviction hearing.
- All existing eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch are suspended, except where there are safety concerns.
- Any court ordered evictions are not suspended and must be addressed by the courts.
- Temporary Renters Supplement
- BC Housing will provide a supplement of up to $500/month for three months to be paid directly to landlords.
- Tenants will have to demonstrate a significant reduction in their income to be eligible for the supplement.
- The Province is still determining whether the supplement will be paid per tenant or per household unit.
- Rent Freeze
- During the state of emergency, there is a freeze on new annual rent increases.
- Any rent increase set to occur on April 1 or later is not permitted.
- Safety Precautions
- Landlords can restrict or close access to common areas within rental buildings.
- A landlord is not allowed to enter a rental unit unless there is a clear threat to health and safety or property.
- Personal service of a notice by a landlord or tenant is no longer allowed, but email service of a notice is now acceptable.
- The Residential Tenancy Branch will adjourn and reschedule hearing and extend timelines for filing applications for dispute resolution as necessary.
- In-person services are no longer available at the Burnaby RTB office, but the RTB is still operational via email and online
What Could This Mean for Landlords?
Premier John Horgan has advised that there is no guarantee the temporary financial measures will be in place by the April 1 rental payment date. Instead, the Province is encouraging coordination between landlords and tenants.
Tenants who are able to pay their rent should continue to do so. Based on the information provided so far, rent is still owed to the landlord, but a landlord is not able to evict a tenant if they do not pay rent. In other words, a landlord is still entitled to the payment of rent, but how the landlord will collect any missed rent in the future is not clear at this point. Given these unusual circumstances we encourage communication and cooperation between tenants and landlords. If a tenant is unable to pay their full rent by the due date a landlord may consider temporary alternate arrangements. A landlord can also point tenants towards resources such as the BC Rent Bank, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Employment Insurance, BC Emergency Benefit for Workers, the Rental Assistance Program, Shelter Aid for Elderly Rents and BC Hydro Customer Crisis Fund.
For not-for-profit housing providers funded by BC Housing, there are some additional supports available to tenants. On March 18, 2020, BC Housing requested all BC Housing funded housing providers place a temporary moratorium on evictions of tenants for non-payment of rent. Furthermore, effective April 1, 2020, BC Housing is allowed Rent-Geared-to-Income tenants (who are subsidized through an agreement with BC Housing) to apply for a temporary three month rent re-calculation as a result of a reduction or loss of employment income as a result of COVID-19.
This can be a stressful situation for tenants and landlords alike. We strongly encourage tenants and landlords to keep informed and updated on this situation as it is regularly changing. Please contact us for specific guidance and advice about your situation and we would be happy to help you.