Update for Residential Landlords: Rent and Eviction Freeze and Other Government Measures

COVID-19 is having catastrophic impacts on the economy, putting many British Columbians out of work. Premier Horgan, anticipating the difficulties facing both renters and landlords, announced a number of significant changes to the landlord-tenant relationship during this state of emergency on March 25, 2020. The changes are outlined below.

The government has not yet released the legislation, which will help clarify the operation of some of these measures. Information from the Residential Tenancy Branch is also pending. We will provide further updates as they are available.

In his press conference, Premier Horgan urged tenants to pay rent if they are able, and asked landlords and tenants to talk to each other. We echo the second recommendation: landlords should open dialogue with tenants about rent payments and communicate about health and safety issues in rental buildings at their earliest opportunity, if they have not done so already. Payment plans, part payment, and other measures for tenants who will have difficulty paying rent may provide landlords more predictability with respect to their income streams in these difficult circumstances.

 

Key measures and recommendations:

Rent freeze during the state of emergency

  • Recommendation: do not issue any rent increases until further clarity is available

Eviction freeze on all pending or future evictions during the state of emergency, with the exception of evictions of tenants causing threats to physical safety and current orders of possession made by the courts

  • Recommendation: do not issue notices to end tenancy until more clarity is available. Contact the writer to discuss any individual tenant issues and possible collection measures

Landlords can restrict guests and access to common spaces

  • Recommendation: wait for further details, but plan reasonable policies/restrictions to protect the health of your tenants. Policies may include:
    1. ban on guests, with exceptions for those delivering groceries or other necessities
    2. restrictions on number of people in common spaces like laundry rooms
    3. social distancing measures in hallways and elevators (we note that the Province has advised construction sites that there should be no more than 4 people in an elevator, although elevator sizes vary)

Landlords are prohibited from entering rental units unless there is a safety issue to person or property

  • Recommendation: do not issue any notices to enter or schedule inspections, work, or any other reason to enter a rental unit except for immediate safety issues

Rent support: $500 / month will be made available to renters whose financial circumstances have changed as a result of COVID-19. This amount will be paid directly to landlords, but likely must be applied for by tenants. The program will be administered by BC Housing.

Changes to RTB service rules allowing for email services and doing away with personal service requirements to facilitate social distancing

  • Recommendation: do not effect personal service for any notice; check service rules carefully before issuing a notice