Coun­cil­lor pro­poses way to end ten­ant buy­outs Swan­son also wants city to reg­u­late rent in­creases

The Georgia Straight - - NEWS - By Car­l­ito Pablo

On May 17 this year, new mea­sures pro­tect­ing renters in Bri­tish Columbia took ef­fect.

One of these gives res­i­dents in prop­er­ties with at least five units the right of first re­fusal to en­ter into a new ten­ancy agree­ment if their oc­cu­pancy is ended for ren­o­va­tions.

How­ever, ten­ants can­not re­turn with their old rents. It will be at rates set by the land­lord.

That’s a fa­mil­iar story for Van­cou­ver city coun­cil­lor Jean Swan­son, who is call­ing for ad­di­tional means to safe­guard renters.

“The own­ers’ busi­ness plan is they’re re­ly­ing on the fact that they can get rid of the ten­ants and raise the rents as much as they like,” Swan­son told the Ge­or­gia Straight by phone.

Swan­son also said that land­lords em­ploy an­other tac­tic: ten­ant buy­outs. On Tues­day (Novem­ber 27), coun­cil will take up a mo­tion by Swan­son that pro­vides steps to pro­tect renters’ rights in re­la­tion to ren­o­va­tions and buy­outs. Her mo­tion in­cludes ex­plor­ing ways to “reg­u­late and pub­licly reg­is­ter all ten­ant buy­outs”.

An­other mea­sure is to re­quire land­lords to of­fer ten­ants the op­por­tu­nity to “tem­po­rar­ily move out for the nec­es­sary du­ra­tion of the ren­o­va­tions with­out their leases end­ing or rent in­creas­ing”.

How­ever, the city’s chief plan­ner has in­formed coun­cil that Van­cou­ver does not have the power to do these things.

In a me­moran­dum, Gil Kel­ley, gen­eral man­ager for plan­ning, ur­ban de­sign, and sus­tain­abil­ity, wrote that the city is “only able to ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tion within the spe­cific pow­ers al­lo­cated to it by the Provin­cial gov­ern­ment in the Van­cou­ver Char­ter”.

“At present the City has no au­thor­ity to reg­u­late and pub­licly reg­is­ter pri­vate agree­ments such as ten­ant buy­outs,” Kel­ley stated.

Kel­ley also wrote that although the city has a ten­ant re­lo­ca­tion and pro­tec­tion pol­icy for cases in­volv­ing re­de­vel­op­ment or ma­jor ren­o­va­tion ac­tiv­ity, it “can­not re­quire that land­lords of­fer ten­ants the op­por­tu­nity to tem­po­rar­ily move out for the du­ra­tion of the ren­o­va­tions with­out their leases end­ing or rent in­creas­ing”.

Kel­ley ex­plained that these leases are gov­erned by the Res­i­den­tial Ten­ancy Act, provin­cial leg­is­la­tion, and that the city has “no au­thor­ity to im­pose ad­di­tional re­quire­ments on those agree­ments”.

Re­spond­ing to Kel­ley’s points, Swan­son said that her mo­tion also calls for the city to ask the prov­ince to im­ple­ment “va­cancy con­trols” across B.C. Or, as the mo­tion states, give the City of Van­cou­ver the power to “reg­u­late max­i­mum rent in­creases dur­ing and be­tween te­nan­cies”.

“If we have va­cancy con­trols, land­lords couldn’t raise rents as much as they want when ten­ants leave or are forced out,” Swan­son ex­plained. “And it would be good for every­body be­cause it will help pre­serve the stock of af­ford­able hous­ing.”

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