Ladysmith town council carried three readings of proposed bylaws, which will regulate evictions for the purpose of renovation (renovictions.) The next step is a public hearing, before adoption.
Since coming to a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting in Nov., the draft bylaws have changed to include: a detailed ticketing process for non-complying landlords; an exemption for buildings where the cost of operating and upkeep exceeds rental income and increased tenant payout options.
If the bylaws are carried, landlords who wish to renovict tenants will be required to pay a minimum of 12 months’ rent, plus an additional month for each full year the tenant has rented the unit. This could see landlords paying upwards of $10,000 buyouts for each tenant in a building.
“The rationale for this payment is to compensate the tenant for the inconvenience of and cost associated with finding a new rental unit in what has become an extremely difficult rental market,” reads the town staff report for council. It added the principle is that tenants, unlike homeowners, do not build equity in their residence that can offset the cost of new housing. “An evicted tenant whose rent was set 15 years ago will face a significantly higher jump in housing costs than one whose rent was set two years ago.”
Town staff said in its report that the Community Charter explicitly grants municipalities the power to regulate rental units and residential properties that are subject to the Residential Tenancy Act. The term renoviction is often used to describe a scenario where a landlord uses renovations as a reason to evict tenants unnecessarily, in some cases to be able to charge higher rent for a unit.
A new section was added to the renoviction bylaw to allow council to grant an exemption when a renovation is needed to bring a building into compliance with health and safety codes, if the work cannot be completed with tenants in the building.
Staff also proposed creating an affordable housing reserve where the town or any other developer can deposit funds. It can be used to build or purchase affordable housing and help with the cost of applying for housing grants. The town will be able to create new policy for ongoing contributions to the fund.
“We are setting up the bank — we can determine how we are going to make the deposits in the future,” said Coun. Marsh Stevens. “At the end of the day no bylaw is going to be perfect — we are probably going to tweak this but we have got the ability, particularly in the case of the housing reserve, to do that in the future.”
Coun. Rob Johnson said he believes the renoviction bylaw is bandage solution to a bigger problem.
“This bylaw is also very punitive to any landlord that legitimately wants to improve the unit in his or her building or buildings,” Johnson said. “I believe that some significant rental stock that is in need of significant upgrades will not happen under these rules and that the conditions of those renting sub standard accommodations will only get worse.”
He said he does not believe the bylaw does anything to improve or add to the rental stock in Ladysmith and takes away incentive for potential developers to provide suites.
“It is a really delicate balance. If you go too far you will have the effect of stifling investment in rental accommodation and we don’t want that,” said Mayor Aaron Stone. “If we use the Band-Aid analogy, I’ll say that if I got a cut I want a Band-Aid before I can get to the hospital — so if we are putting a Band-Aid on a problem today before we get it to the hospital, I will happily take that Band-Aid over nothing.”
Stone said he had several lobby attempts from residents and developers since the COW meeting — “[the] best place to do those is in a public hearing. It is not really appropriate for the mayor or members of council to engage in individual lobbying around these issues once a bylaw is on the table,” he said.
A date will be set for a public hearing to be held prior to council adopting the bylaws.