Evictions suspended, $500 rebate to help renters, landlords in B.C.

Grant Boone
March 26, 2020

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that if (people) are sick or self-isolating, or if they have had their hours cut back or they were laid off that they would not be fearful of losing their home", B.C. Premier John Horgan said.

"You have a relationship with your landlord, let's all hope that they're good relationships and you're going to have to find a way to work this out together", Horgan said.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson confirmed that the funds are meant to help low- and middle-income renters who have seen a "significant reduction" in income directly related to the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced hours or layoffs. Horgan said he had received 17,000 emails in recent weeks about housing concerns. "Our plan will give much-needed financial relief to renters and landlords".

The supplement will be paid directly to landlords.

Last week B.C. announced a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent from BC Housing-funded residences.

"We don't want people to think they might lose that home as a result of this pandemic", he said today. The funding will be delivered through BC Housing.

The funding for the rental protection program will come from a $5-billion fund the B.C. government recently announced, he said.

As well, the province is freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.

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An online portal will be launched and after applying for relief, it will be 10 days when people will see the money. Close to one million new applications for employment insurance have been reported, much higher than average.

Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the former chair of B.C.'s Rental Housing Task Force, confirmed that the Residential Tenancy Branch will continue to operate during this time.

He also said that this program is for people who are in "genuine distress" and that the "fewer people who access the program, the more opportunity we have to expand it moving forward". Community connection is very important during this challenging time, but it must be done safely, either virtually or with physical distance.

The exception is in cases where access is urgently needed due to a health or safety concern or to prevent undue damage to the unit.

Earlier this week, the AMS joined nine student unions across the province asking the BC government to freeze rent payments and ban evictions.

The province's Residential Tenancy Branch will implement several additional actions, including adjourning and rescheduling hearings in situations where people need additional time to prepare and extending timelines for filing applications for dispute resolution. Renters will also be able to prevent landlords from entering their units except in exceptional cases.

Restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no personal service and allowing email).

Landlords are also ordered to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

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