The provincial government recently made two important Residential Tenancy Act changes that help strengthen legal protections for renters in BC: 1) limiting the use of vacate clauses and 2) eliminating geographic-based rent increases.
This is great news given that renters in this province are facing serious affordability and instability issues.
Here’s an overview of the two key changes:
1. Limiting the use of vacate clauses
For years, landlords could use fixed term tenancy agreements (“leases”) with vacate clauses to avoid rent control and arbitrarily evict tenants.
If a tenant had a one-year fixed term agreement with a vacate clause, the landlord could either require that tenant to move at the end of the term for reasons outside of the Residential Tenancy Act, or give them the option to sign a brand-new agreement with brand-new terms, including rent at whatever the landlord wanted.
In BC’s ultra-competitive rental market, many tenants were forced to accept these agreements just to secure a roof over their head. The result has been artificially inflated rents and an eroded sense of security among renters.
Fortunately, the provincial government decided to close this loophole. As a result, vacate clauses can now only be used in the two following circumstances:
- when a tenant temporarily moves out and sublets their rental unit to a subtenant; and
- when a landlord or a “close family member” of that landlord intends in good faith, at the time of entering into the tenancy agreement, to occupy the rental unit at the end of the term.
Perhaps the best news about this change is that it has been made retrospectively, which means that it applies to current and future tenancy agreements. In other words, if you already have a fixed term agreement with a vacate clause, this legislative amendment affects you in a positive way.
At the end of your fixed term, your landlord can no longer force you to move without legal grounds or make you accept an excessive rent increase in order to stay. Instead, your tenancy will most likely continue on a month-to-month basis, unless you and your landlord both agree to extend it for another fixed term.
Regardless of whether your tenancy continues on a month-to-month or fixed term basis, your landlord will only be able to evict you for reasons listed in the Residential Tenancy Act, and will only be able to raise your rent by the allowable annual percentage – 4% for 2018.
2. Eliminating geographic-based rent increases
The Residential Tenancy Act no longer allows additional geographic-based rent increases. This means that landlords can no longer apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for rent increases above the allowable annual percentage when a rental unit has a lower rent compared to other similar units in the same geographic area.
Keep in mind, however, that landlords can still apply for additional rent increases in other limited circumstances, listed in section 23 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation.
For more information on the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords in BC, visit the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre’s website and earn a certificate through their free video-based online course, Renting It Right.