COVID-19 and Residential Tenancies

In response to the Covid-19 crisis the BC government enacted a number of measures affecting residential tenancies that remain in effect during the duration of the Provincial State of Emergency. Among them, these measures included a freeze on any rent increases and a prohibition on evictions.

A landlord can give notice of a rent increase during the state of emergency, but it will not come into effect until after the state of emergency has passed and will not apply retroactively to the months in which the state of emergency was in place.

With regards to the prohibition on evictions, the BC government has decided that all notice to end tenancy given after March 30, 2020 are of no force or effect. If a notice was given prior to March 30, 2020, the tenant may dispute the notice the Residential Tenancy Branch. If a tenant does not dispute the notice within the normal timelines they are deemed to have accepted the end of the tenancy, but the steps available to actually remove them cannot be used until after the state of emergency has ended.

Furthermore, orders and writs of possession issued prior to March 30, 2020 cannot be enforced until after the state of emergency is over.

During the state of emergency, landlords cannot evict a tenant for unpaid rent and/or utilities, cause, landlord or family use, sale of the property to a new owner who wishes to reside in the premise, end of employment as caretaker, or failure to continue to qualify for subsidized housing.

The Residential Tenancy Branch will allow landlords to apply to request the right to remove a tenant during the state of emergency, but will only allow the eviction under exceptional circumstances including if the tenants is significantly interfering/disturbing the landlord or another tenant in the premises, is jeopardizing the health/safety of the landlord or another tenant, the premise is at significant risk, extraordinary damage has already been done to the premise, or illegal activity is being engaged in at the premises.                

It is important for tenants to be aware that although the state of emergency prevents most evictions the legislation still requires them to pay rent during the Covid-19 crisis. If a tenant fail to pay rent during the state of emergency a landlord can take steps to evict them once it expires.                  

When the state of emergency expires the prohibition on evictions will expire unless an additional ministerial order is passed. Both tenants and landlords should monitor the extensions the provincial government has given to the state of emergency and be prepared for when it will expire.

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