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.

Representation

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New Online Education for BC Tenants

logo_rentingitrightThe Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) and the Justice Education Society are pleased to announce the launch of a new online course for tenants, Renting it Right! Designed for first-time renters, the course covers both practical and legal topics to consider before deciding to rent. Course participants will learn about:

  • Needs and preferences- understanding rental expenses, creating a budget, and thinking about unique requirements;
  • Searching for rental housing;
  • Submitting a strong application;
  • Signing a tenancy agreement; and
  • Moving in.

Securing rental housing can be a challenge, especially for those who have never rented in BC, or who lack recent references. Renting it Right aims to help renters find the place that is right for them. The video-based course guides BC residents through the rental process, in preparation for submitting a strong rental application. Course participants who pass the final exam will earn a certificate to present to landlords.

By learning about the rights and responsibilities that come with signing a tenancy agreement, renters will be better equipped to avoid problems once they move in. Part one of Renting it Right educates BC residents on what they need to know before moving in. Part two (coming soon!) will cover the basics of a tenancy from start to finish.

David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, says that “Renting it Right is a great new resource that will help renters succeed in their tenancies”. LandlordBC has endorsed the course, and encourages landlords to recognize the certificate when presented with a rental application.

“We are committed to online education for everyday activities, like renting,” said Rick Craig, Executive Director of the Justice Education Society. “Renting it Right will help first-time renters make smart decisions and avoid legal problems”.

Renting it Right is available free at RentingItRight.ca. Register today to learn about renting in BC and earn a certificate!

For comments on the course, please contact:

Jane Mayfield
Acting Executive Director
TRAC Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre
604-255-3099 ext. 228
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Rick Craig
Executive Director
Justice Education Society of BC
604-660-3191
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New Service Alert: TRAC now provides Full Representation

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Today’s post introduces Direct Representation from TRAC, a Clicklaw contributor. TRAC now provides free full representation to tenants at dispute resolution hearings in limited situations depending on eligibility and location:

Who?
Eligibility criteria to receive representation from TRAC:
– Income
– Types of Cases

Where?
The Lower Mainland, with some exceptions

TRAC reserves the right to use its discretion on a case-by-case basis, and has the final say regarding which tenants receive assistance. There may be times when TRAC is unable to represent a tenant who falls under the criteria above due to time constraints or other factors.

For more information check out TRAC’s Direct Representation page or contact the Tenant Infoline at 604-255-0546 or 1-800-665-1185.

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CBABC’s Dial-A-Law Scripts come to Clicklaw Wikibooks

Clicklaw, Courthouse Libraries BC (CLBC) and LawMatters are very pleased to let the public and legal information community know that the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch’s long-serving Dial-A-Law scripts are now on Clicklaw Wikibooks. They join a growing library of content from other key producers of 500px-Dial-A-Law_cover_imagepublic legal information, including People’s Law School, TRAC, BC CEAS and others including some authors CLBC helped to publish, such as Cliff Thorstenson and John-Paul Boyd. The collection of scripts will be printed in a 500+ page book to be shipped to public libraries in BC, at no cost to the libraries, in conjunction with the LawMatters program.

CLBC and CBABC announced this news by formal press release yesterday (April 14, 2015). It’s exciting since Dial-A-Law scripts are perhaps the longest-surviving example of the BC legal profession’s dedication to helping the public with free legal information. The scripts cover over 130 legal topics, and have existed in various formats for over 30 years. Dial-A-Law started in 1983 with help from the BC Law Foundation and its scripts have been edited by volunteer lawyers ever since. More information about the various ways you can access Dial-A-Law is on Clicklaw’s page for the service.

Yesterday’s announcement is significant because now the scripts are even more accessible. Clicklaw Wikibooks are all about keeping legal information in a single spot so that editors and lawyers can update it—this is one of the benefits of a Wikipedia-style platform—but letting the end user choose whether to print, read online, or otherwise export the content in a way that meets their needs. Users can download whole contents, or only portions, of Clicklaw Wikibook in PDF or EPUB. They can order a printed book for cost, or read it online.  Continue reading »

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An Online Makeover for TRAC Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre

By Andrew SakamotoTRAC Logo (blue)
Executive Director, TRAC

TRAC provides information on residential tenancy law to tenants and advocates across British Columbia. Our services include a Tenant Infoline, legal education workshops, multilingual publications and a website/social media.  We work with all levels of government, other community organizations and the general public to promote the legal protection of tenants and the availability of affordable rental housing in BC.

As a small organization with a provincial mandate, we rely on technology to help us educate communities across the province.  One way we do is by making our resources accessible through Clicklaw.

Recently, we also launched our new website!  The design is modern and clean, and our content has been organized in a way that allows users to quickly find answers to their legal questions.

Here are some of the highlights of our new site:

  • Tenant Survival Guide – One of the most popular legal publications in the province, our TSG offers a comprehensive yet plain language overview of tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities.
  • Template Letters –When issues arise during a tenancy, tenants should communicate their concerns to their landlord on paper. TRAC offers 27 template letters to use as a starting point.
  • Tenant Info Pamphlets – TRAC has created a pamphlet that covers the fundamentals of residential tenancy law, and translated it into 18 languages. For tenants whose first language is not English, this is where to look.
  • All content pages on our website can be printed as nicely formatted fact sheets. Online information is important, but so are hardcopy resources. Feel free to print and distribute our fact sheets to friends, family members, clients and landlords
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