Residential Tenancies: Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act

Over the last year, there have been substantial changes to the Residential Tenancy Act and Regulation affecting the relationship between tenants and landlords.

The biggest change is the removal of vacate-clauses from fixed-term tenancy agreements unless the tenancy unit is going to be occupied by the landlord or a family member. In the past, these clauses meant that a tenant had to move-out at the end of the fixed-term. Now, at the end of the fixed-term specified in the tenancy agreement, the tenancy, instead of ending, converts to a month-to-month tenancy. With the automatic transition to a month-to-month tenancy, the allowable rent increase is limited to the rate of inflation plus 2%.

Further changes include an increased notice period for ending a tenancy for demolition, renovation, repair or conversion. Previously, landlords only had to give tenants 2 months’ notice to end a tenancy under these grounds. Now, they must give 4 months’ notice.

If a tenant has to vacate a rental until in order for it to be renovated or repaired, they must be given the option, or right of first-refusal, to return to the unit. This rule applies to buildings containing 5 or more units. If a landlord fails to give the tenant this option and rents the unit to someone else, the landlord can be subject to a fine of up to 12 months’ rent.

For many years, landlords have been able to evict a tenant if the landlord or a member of their family wants to use the unit. If, after evicting a tenant on that basis, it turned out the landlord never in fact used the unit for personal reasons, the landlord could be fined. This fine has now been increased to 12 months’ rent

The Rental Housing Task Force was established in April 2018 to provide recommendations to the BC government regarding further changes to the Act. The Task Force has also recommended that the allowable annual rent increase be reduced from the rate of inflation plus an additional 2%, to the rate of inflation only. Additional recommendations are anticipated in the coming months.