Residential Tenancy Rights: Where to go for help?

apb_bannerBy Priyan Samarakoone
Program Manager, Access Pro Bono

The BC housing crisis has been fairly well documented in the news as of late and its ripple effect on subsidized housing is slowly rearing its ugly head. BC’s most vulnerable tenants are those hit the hardest by this trend.

It is commonly known that BC’s social housing providers are not able to keep up with the demand. As a result, many low-income tenants seek accommodation through private landlords in basement suites and split houses to cover the shortfall of available housing. This has provided a workable bridge to a long-term housing solution. Unfortunately, there is no long-term solution in sight. New property owners are faced with higher debt and some are unable to afford to rent out their new homes at the existing low rent. These landlords opt to move-in close family members or undertake significant renovations to force existing tenants out. Other new homeowners prefer to maintain the property for investment purposes and choose not to make them available on the rental market.

The increased market value of rental suites have also resulted in some Corporate Landlords having little tolerance for long term tenants who are effectively rent controlled under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). Tenants who have previously had little to no conflict with regards to their suites find themselves battling their landlords over minor lapses that weren’t strictly enforced in the past, such as being a day or two late in paying rent. These factors have combined to cause a spike in eviction notices being served on tenants in the recent months.

The RTA provides some safeguards but has an ultimate two-month notice period for landlords to end tenancies for their personal use of the property. The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), when dealing with such disputes, enforces strict deadlines and there are other technical steps involved in submitting evidence. It is imperative in this type of tribunal settings to get all the evidence required for the dispute before the arbitrator so that the issue may be correctly decided. If the evidence is not correctly submitted and an error is made at the tribunal, the prospect of success on a Judicial Review is significantly impaired. Unfortunately some landlords and tenants caught in this situation are unaware of their rights and uncertain of what resources are available to assist them deal with evictions. The RTB provides some information and so do organizations like the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), but not enough is available by way of representation at RTB hearings.

Access Pro Bono (APB) has consulted with various stakeholders, including PovNet, TRAC, the UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP), and the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) to assess the need for additional representation services. Although the existing non-profit organizations are providing invaluable assistance, additional legal representation services are imperative, as significant numbers of people are still unable to secure free legal advocates for hearings before the RTB.

With the assistance of TRAC and CLAS, APB is creating a program tailored to facilitate pro bono representation by lawyers and other legally trained advocates to low-income individuals (tenants or landlords) appearing before the RTB. APB will be launching our Residential Tenancy Program on August 31, 2016. This information will be made available via the Clicklaw HelpMap.

Clients interested in accessing our services will be subject to the standard intake protocol and will have to meet our income threshold. To determine eligibility please visit www.accessprobono.ca.

Lawyers interested in joining our RTP can contact APB at 604.482.3195 ext. 1513.

Please refer to the resources below for additional assistance.

Information on Tenancy Law

  • APB’s Summary Legal Advice Program: 604.878.7400 or 1.877.762.6664.

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