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B.C. brings in protections for renters, landlords in light of COVID-19 pandemic

Thursday, March 26, 2020 @ 1:31 PM | By Ian Burns


The B.C. government announced that it is introducing a new temporary rental supplement, halting evictions and freezing rents as the province grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new rental supplement will help households by offering up to $500 a month towards their rent, building on federal and provincial financial supports already announced for British Columbians facing financial hardship.

“With lost jobs and lost wages due to COVID-19, many tenants are worried they can’t make the rent. It’s a challenging time for landlords too,” said Premier John Horgan. “Nobody should lose their home as a result of COVID-19. Our plan will give much-needed financial relief to renters and landlords. It will also provide more security for renters, who will be able to stay in their homes without fear of eviction or increasing rents during this emergency.”

The funds will support renters experiencing a loss of income by helping them pay their rent and will be paid directly to landlords on their behalf, to ensure landlords continue to receive rental income during the pandemic. Benefiting people with low to moderate incomes, this supplement will be available to renters who are facing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs.

“People are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety and they need to be able to depend on the comfort and stability of home right now. Our government is taking steps to help take some of the pressure off renters and landlords and protect people’s health,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson. “We’re helping renters pay rent and giving them the peace of mind that they have a stable home in these unprecedented times and ensuring that landlords can count on some rental income right now to keep them afloat too.”

The list of immediate measures also includes:
  • A halt to evictions by ensuring a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for a hearing.
  • Halting the enforcement of existing eviction notices issued by the RTB, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns. The smaller number of court ordered evictions are up to the courts, which operate independently of government.
  • Freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.
  • Preventing landlords from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where it is needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the unit.
  • Restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no personal service and allowing e-mail).
  • Allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

The RTB will implement several additional actions, including adjourning and rescheduling hearings in situations where people need additional time to prepare and extending timelines for filing applications for dispute resolution. These latest steps are part of government’s $5 billion COVID-19 Action Plan.