It appears that the province has no intention to regulate rental increases between tenancies any time soon.
North Cowichan’s previous council sent a letter to the province in September asking the government to regulate rent increases by landlords when one tenant moves out and another moves in after receiving correspondence from a local renter in an apartment building in the municipality who saw rents in the building increase dramatically.
But Murray Rankin, B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for Housing, replied that the Rental Housing Task Force that was appointed in 2018 by former Premier John Horgan had considered vacancy control by the government during the task force’s province-wide consultations.
But it had concluded that vacancy control could have the unintended consequence of reducing investment in needed repairs and reducing affordable rental stock.
Rankin said in a letter to council that the task force raised the concern that over time, rents may not keep up with rising costs to maintain and repair rental stock, and vacancy control could serve as a disincentive for landlords to conduct necessary repairs and maintenance.
“This is particularly problematic in B.C., where much of the purpose-built rental stock is aging,” he said.
“Additionally, during the consultation process, landlords and developers indicated that they are opposed to vacancy control, and implementing it would cause them to reduce the amount of overall available rental housing supply in a market with already low vacancy rates.”
Rankin said that while he appreciates that North Cowichan’s council feels that vacancy control would help alleviate the housing crisis, decisions about rent-increase restrictions need to balance the needs and preferences of renters and landlords to not negatively impact the rental housing supply.
He said that because of the low level of rental housing supply across B.C., the government is not currently considering implementing vacancy control.
Rankin said the province has taken other actions to protect renters.
“We expanded the Rental Assistance Program and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters Program that provide rent supplements to low-income families and seniors, and expanded the BC Rent Bank program into more communities in the province,” he said.
“In addition, in response to rising inflation rates, government decided to cap the annual allowable rent increase for 2023 at two per cent, below the inflation rate.”
Rankin said the province is also taking steps to improve renter security by addressing illegal evictions and renovictions.
He said that when a tenant has been evicted, the landlord must take steps to use the rental unit for the stated purpose for ending the tenancy within a reasonable period after the effective date of the notice.
“If the landlord does not follow through on the stated purpose for ending the tenancy, the tenant can make a claim through the Residential Tenancy Branch for compensation equal to 12 months’ rent,” Rankin said.