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General News · 17th April 2020
Noba Anderson
To the very best of my understanding, after research both on line and on the phone with the BC Residential Tenancy Branch, the following is true. I have asked our two local reporters to do further in-depth research on this topic for your benefit. Although this news is a few weeks old, I am getting enough inquiries to warrant some clarity.

Spring is in full swing, yet the normal summer shuffle will not be upon us this year. In these times of Covid-19, landlords CANNOT END TENANCY. This means that winter renters cannot have their tenancy ended by owners expecting to return, either for their own use or for short-term rental use. Tenancy cannot even be terminated at this time to allow a new purchaser to occupy the home that they have just bought. Yes indeed, these are remarkable times.

This leads to a larger back story to set some context. The BC Residential Tenancy Act changed recently, making it no longer permissible to engage in long-standing Cortes practices. It has been common place for property owners to rent their homes to a tenant for 6 to 10 months of the year and then either return themselves in the summer or rent it out on a short-term basis for vacation rentals. This is no longer allowed and some land lords have not yet changed their practices to accommodate this change in legislation.

Even in non-Covid-19 times, if a fixed-term lease has been arranged between a landlord and tenant, at the end of that term the tenancy automatically reverts to a month-to-month arrangement. Assuming no egregious tenancy breaches by the renter, the land lord, after giving at least two months notice, can then only end tenancy for their own occupation if that occupation is for a minimum of 6 months of their own residential use. They may not end tenancy to return themselves for a shorter period of time or to rent it out on the short-term vacation rental market. One then can only legally engage in the vacation rental business if the owner is either moving out themselves or has left their property vacant between summer seasons. That was before Covid-19.

To support both renters and land lords and to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Government of BC has introduced a new temporary rental supplement, halted evictions and frozen rents, among other actions. They announced a plan during the provincial state of emergency which includes amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act which will be in effect for the duration of the provincial state of emergency.

This means that if you are part of a fixed-term lease arrangement which you are expecting to soon end, you are mistaken. That lease will roll over into a month-to-month tenancy which can only be terminated as stated above. This means that as a tenant you cannot be expected to leave at the end of that lease time for two reasons. First, it was not a legal situation to begin with if you have not been given two months notice because the owner will occupy themselves for a minimum of 6 months. And second, there is a total freeze on almost all evictions at this time.

In addition to the freeze on evictions, for renters who are out of work because of Covid-19 and are struggling to pay their rent, a new rental supplement has been created to offer up to $300 per month for households and $500 per month for households with dependants. This Provincial program builds on federal and provincial financial supports already announced for British Columbians facing financial hardship. Applications can be made by renters to www.BCHousing.org

BC’s Covid-19 housing measures
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020MAH0048-000561
Here is some information for financial supports for housing
http://bowinnmamla.ca/covid19/supports/#housing
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/covid-19

I would welcome a real in-depth look at the medium to long-term implications of these measures for Cortes Island, but that is beyond the scope of this article. How will this change our housing market? Will these new regulations in conjunction with a potential long-term slowing down of the tourism market shift our rental stock into more year-round rentals? Will home-owners stop renting out their homes even in the winter leading to even less rental availability? Will unstably housed renters be given a long-term reprieve from moving twice a year because they can stay this summer, will learn their rights, and not be forced to leave in future years? Will renters continue to honor the hand-shake intent, irrespective of the law, of a winter lease out of kind regard for the homeowners or from fear of being labeled ‘problem renters?’ Some of each to be sure and this time of Covid-19 may well have long-lasting effects on many aspects of our lives, including housing.

With all my love to all of you.
Noba Anderson

Regional Director, Cortes Island
directorcortesisland.com
250-935-0320