B.C. tenants face extra rent hikes to fund landlords' repairs – and they're permanent
Tenants' advocates are urging the B.C. government to reconsider a policy that allows landlords to cover the costs of repairs and improvements on their properties using supplemental rent hikes.
The province's additional rent increase (ARI) process, which launched last summer, gives landlords the ability to hike rent beyond the annual allowable rate that's tied to the Consumer Price Index – but only if they are incurring capital expenditures, paying for anything from windows to security systems.
The increases, which can be up to three per cent of existing rent, remain in place permanently, even after the projects are fully paid off.
“Tenants that don’t own property are being asked to pay for upgrades to buildings that are owned by massive, massive investment companies and corporations,” said Robert Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre. “The current model we’re using is incredibly inequitable.”
Some tenants who have faced an additional rent hike describe feeling some of the burden associated with condo ownership, despite not holding any actual equity in the property. They also lack any input into the decision-making process, unlike condo owners who participate in a strata council.
"It actually makes me feel sick to my stomach that I'm being taken advantage of," said Rob Pont, a senior living in Vancouver's West End.
Back in March, Pont and his neighbours received a notice informing them that Hollyburn Properties Ltd. was applying for an additional rent increase at the 14-storey apartment building on Pendrell Street where he's lived since 2008.
The projects cited are "engineering/architect," at a cost of $54,435; "hazardous materials removal," at a cost of $6,431; "electrical," at a cost of $5,200; and the most costly expenditure, a $202,238 parkade restoration.
Hollyburn is a property management and real estate investment company that operates more than 70 apartment buildings across the country, representing several thousand units. The building where Pont lives is valued at $55.3 million, as of the most recent assessment.
Pont said the idea that such a large company would ask him to fund building improvements that will ultimately increase the value of one its numerous investments is offensive.
"Don't come crying to me," he said. "It's crazy. How can I be responsible when your building needs to be repaired?"
CTV News has reached out to Hollyburn Properties Ltd. for comment. This article will be updated if a response is received.
RENT HIKES ENSURE SAFETY, LANDLORDS SAY
While the ARI process may feel unfair to some renters, landlords argue it's necessary to help owners afford to keep buildings well maintained, particularly since the NDP government changed the formula for annual allowable rent increases back in 2018.
Under the previous BC Liberal government, landlords were allowed to hike rent by two per cent plus the rate of CPI. The NDP estimates the average renter has saved upwards of $1,000 per year since the province removed the additional two per cent from the formula.
In a statement, LandlordBC, whose members include building managers, investment property owners and homeowners who have mortgage-helper suites, told CTV News that owners need additional rent hikes to cover the costs of "the substantial investments landlords are being asked to make to improve the health, safety, energy efficiency and resiliency of our aging rental stock."
The Pendrell Street property where Pont lives is about 50 years old, and is just one of many buildings in the neighbourhood that is showing its age.
"It is worth noting that inflationary pressure are paralyzing the sector," LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak said in an email, pointing to increased costs of labour and building materials. "We appreciate that renters, like all British Columbians, are facing challenges these days, but safe and healthy rental housing comes at a cost."
LandlordBC worked with the province to create the ARI process, and described the system as "transparent and highly prescriptive, with defined eligible expenses."
Tenants also have the ability to push back against an ARI application by disputing the eligibility of capital expenditures through the Residential Tenancy Branch – something Pont and some of his neighbours are preparing to do this fall.
According to the province, there have been 122 applications for an additional rent increase since the system launched in July 2021. Only 31 applications have been processed through the Residential Tenancy Branch so far, and six of those were ultimately rejected.
ADVOCATES ARGUE SYSTEM STACKED AGAINST TENANTS
Patterson told CTV News the dispute process can be frustrating for renters, who in some instances have to try and prove a repair could have been done for cheaper had a landlord not put it off – a challenging feat even for those with resources and time to dedicate to the fight.
He also argued the wording of the regulations when it comes to what counts as an eligible capital expenditure is "incredibly vague."
According to the regulations, landlords can only apply for an ARI when installing, repairing or replacing a "major system" or "major component," the former defined as "an electrical system, mechanical system, structural system or similar system that is integral to the residential property or to providing services to tenants and occupants."
Patterson said he's seen an owner apply for an ARI to cover the cost of building an additional bike storage room, something some renters might consider an amenity – and one that would be of little use to a non-cyclist.
"There's also very bizarre wording in the policy that seems to imply that you can't get a rent increase if you only do cosmetic work, but if you happen to do cosmetic work at the same time, it can be included," Patterson added.
In addition, there are some complicated situations that don't appear to have been predicted by lawmakers. In one recent RTB decision, an arbitrator determined a gate repair was eligible to be funded through a rent increase even though the gate is apparently also used by the owner and other non-tenants.
"In response to the tenants' statements that more than just the tenants use the main gate, I note that this is not a factor considered (under the legislation regarding additional rent increases) and decline to consider this as a factor," the decision reads.
Patterson said he understands the benefits of incentivizing landlords to keep their properties safe and well-maintained, but noted that can also be achieved through grants and tax breaks. He suggested the province reconsider the ARI policy, at least to limit the scope of eligible expenditures and make it so that additional rent increases are time-limited rather than permanent.
“We don’t ask those with the least to subsidize those with the most,” he said. “There needs to be a pause. We need to go back to the drawing board.”
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada makes amendments to foreign homebuyers ban – here's what they look like
Months after Canada's ban on foreign homebuyers took effect on Jan. 1, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has made several amendments to the legislation allowing non-Canadians to purchase residential properties in certain circumstances.
'Leave this with me': Alberta premier heard on call with COVID-19 protester
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in a leaked cellphone call, commiserated with a COVID-19 protester about his trial while divulging to him there was an internal dispute over how Crown prosecutors were handling COVID-19 cases.
What is the grocery rebate in federal budget 2023? Key questions, answered
To help offset rising living expenses, the Government of Canada has introduced a one-time grocery rebate for low- and modest-income Canadians. Here is what we know about the rebate.
Spending to increase economic capacity is fiscally responsible, Freeland says in post-budget defence
Defending her latest federal budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said spending that increases economic capacity is fiscally responsible.
RCMP arrest 5 while executing search warrant at Wet'suwet'en protest camp
RCMP officers executed a search warrant at a protest camp on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory near the under-construction Coastal GasLink pipeline Wednesday.
'Compostable' food packaging may contain hazardous 'forever chemicals': Canadian study
As Canada phases out single-use plastics, more restaurants are opting to use 'compostable' takeout containers. But a new study suggests some of these supposedly eco-friendly containers may pose hazards to our health and the environment.
Many Canadians like to tell 'white lies' about home-cooked meals: survey
Have you ever had to lie about the quality of a home-cooked meal to protect someone's feelings? According to a new survey by Research Co. you’re not the only one.
Victim of Vancouver stabbing had asked man not to vape near toddler, says grieving mom
The family of a 37-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Vancouver last weekend says he was attacked after asking someone not to vape near his young daughter.
From royal titles to animal testing: The law changes coming in the budget bill
The 2023 federal budget released this week includes a series of affordability measures, tax changes, and major spends on health care and the clean economy. But, tucked into the 255-page document are a series of smaller items you may have missed.
IIO investigating after man driving construction vehicle shot, seriously injured by police in Duncan, B.C.
A man was taken to hospital with serious injuries following a police shooting in Duncan, B.C., on Tuesday evening.
Police investigating 'targeted' attempted arson at home in Saanich
Police are investigating what they believe was a targeted arson attack at a home north of Victoria.
B.C. parents win battle to put son's Indigenous name on his birth certificate
After 13 months of fighting, the parents of a Campbell River, B.C., boy have received a birth certificate that accurately reflects the spelling of his name.
‘I started breaking down:’ Friends remember 15-year-old homicide victim
A 15-year-old girl shot to death in the community of Martindale early Tuesday morning, has now been identified by friends and police as Sarah Alexis Jorquera.
Woman in custody, charges pending following Lions Park LRT station stabbing
Calgary police say they've arrested a woman in connection with a stabbing at the Lions Park LRT station that stemmed from an altercation between several individuals.
Calgary archaeologist launches foundation to support female field researchers
A Calgary archaeologist wants to help more women get out in the field by launching the Fair Field Foundation, an organization to break barriers women often face.
Online video between Danielle Smith and Artur Pawlowski raises questions over interference
In an online video, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is heard speaking with outspoken Calgary pastor Artur Pawlowski, creating questions about her influence on Alberta court cases.
Man found dead in SUV, Edmonton homicide detectives on the case
Police are looking for help in the suspicious death of a man found in a vehicle in north Edmonton Wednesday morning.
Spiritual leader's wife charged with sexual assault accuses police of taking cell phone without warrant
The wife of an Edmonton spiritual leader who is accused of sexual assault has a new lawyer.
BREAKING | Man pulled from house fire in Toronto's Junction Triangle dies in hospital
A man is dead after being pulled from a fire at a home in Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood.
Man assaulted aboard TTC subway train: Toronto police
A male victim has been assaulted in an altercation aboard a TTC subway train, Toronto police say.
A rare weather phenomenon strikes southern Ontario again
Thundersnow has struck southern Ontario for a second time this month.
Bill 15: Quebec tables legislation to overhaul health system
The CAQ government has unveiled its long-promised plan to improve Quebec's public health network. Tabled at the Quebec legislature Wednesday by Health Minister Christian Dubé, Bill 15 promises a major shakeup.
'I lost a brother': Funeral held for teen who died in Old Montreal fire
Almost two weeks after his death, a funeral was held in Laval Wednesday for a teenager who died in the fire in Old Montreal.
Quebec's health-care reform plan draws backlash from
Quebec's sweeping new health-care plan—Bill 15—drew mixed reaction following its announcement Wednesday. Several health-care professionals say it's a massive undertaking—especially for a health minister who initially said he didn't want reform.
Manitobans should prepare for a gas price hike according to an expert
Come the weekend, Manitobans will be paying more for gas and the price could climb even higher in the coming weeks and months according to a gas expert.
Brandon pauses public engagement on 30-year vision over 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour'
The City of Brandon has paused its public consultation on its 30-year plan for the city due to 'inappropriate and unsafe behaviour' from some residents.
Manitoba family launches lawsuit over COVID-19 vaccination
A Manitoba family has launched a lawsuit alleging their 23-year-old son had a stroke days after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving him legally blind.
Saskatoon police release video of 3 people placing 'large container' in dumpster where body was found
Saskatoon Police Service is asking for the public’s help in identifying three individuals they believe are connected to a suspicious death.
Saskatoon murder trial on hold as police investigate new revelations
A Saskatoon murder trial is being adjourned to allow police to follow-up on "significant information" that just came to the Crown prosecutor's attention Wednesday.
Dog that attacked five-year-old Saskatoon boy involved in three other attacks
CTV News has learned a dog that attacked a five-year-old boy last week had been declared dangerous in February 2022, but the city had lost track of the owner a year ago.
City council waiting for next steps in Experience Regina rebrand
The City of Regina is waiting for an update regarding the next steps for the Experience Regina rebrand.
Regina's Dewdney Avenue strip to undergo 2 year renovation project
The Dewdney Avenue strip between Broad Street and Albert Street is about to undergo a major two year renovation project.
Saskatchewan to spend $6 million for some hip and knee surgeries in Calgary
The Saskatchewan government is set to spend up to $6 million to send patients to Calgary for hip and knee surgeries.
N.S. mass shooting inquiry report must deliver 'clear commentary': family lawyer
A lawyer who represents Nova Scotia mass shooting victims' families said in an interview they are hoping "for clear commentary on what things went wrong and what things ought to have been done better or differently."
Cold front to sweep mix of snow, rain across the Maritimes Thursday
A low-pressure system moving north of the St. Lawrence River valley will sweep a cold front across the Maritimes on Thursday.
How Portapique residents past and present are dealing with reminders of the 2020 mass shooting
The eve of the release of the final report from the inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting is a reminder for residents of Portapique of their small community’s traumatic past.
Coyote encounter unnerves woman
An evening walk along the trails of Westminster Ponds in southeast London, Ont. turned into a frantic scene for Denise Singh and her two dogs.
Over a dozen dogs 'dumped' across Huron and Perth Counties
More than a dozen dogs were abandoned across Huron and Perth Counties on March 23 and 24, and local dog lovers are furious about it.
2,700 cattle escape $2-million barn fire
Damage is estimated at $2-million after a barn and grass fire in southeast London on Tuesday.
Northern Ont. family ‘ecstatic’ as 25-year-old murder mystery finally solved
Robert Steven Wright was convicted Wednesday of murdering Renee Sweeney, a little more than 25 years after her brutal killing shocked the community.
B.C. man pleads guilty to northern Ont. shooting, Crown drops attempted murder charge
A man who admitted to shooting up a home in Greater Sudbury in 2020 over a drug theft pled guilty Wednesday to reduced charges.
Driver caught travelling 200km/hr on major Ontario highway
A 20-year-old has been charged with careless driving after travelling double the speed limit on a major Ontario highway.
'Fairly emotional for everybody': Teen struck by LRT visits emergency crews who rescued him
Several weeks after a teen was stuck under an LRT train in Kitchener, he’s now up and walking and visited the emergency crews who helped rescue him.
Cambridge municipal election candidate suing city after names left off ballot
A retired political science professor says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.
Businesses weigh in on government’s plan to reduce credit card fees
The federal government is touting plans to help small businesses by reducing credit card fees, but some local merchants say while they welcome the measure, the actual impact it will have on their operations will be minimal.