Renters living in an apartment building in Esquimalt, B.C. are slamming provincial legislation that could leave them on the hook for the cost of building repairs in the latest report of woes faced by tenants in a province where sky-high rents continue to climb.
Last week, CHEK News reported that tenants of Royal Esquimalt Apartments could see a four per cent increase in rent in order to cover the $100,000 cost of repair work that was completed last April to fix a leaky roof and a boiler.
Since July 1, 2021, new legislation allows landlords to “apply for additional rent increases when they have completed necessary repairs to the rental unit or building.”
“These changes will encourage landlords to invest in their rental property by allowing them to recover some of those costs through modest rent increases approved by the RTB Director,” reads a document published by B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch outlining the changes.
The baseline maximum allowable rent increase for 2022 before factoring repair costs is 1.5 per cent. A landlord may apply to increase rent by an additional three per cent to cover repair costs.
In a statement sent to CHEK News, the Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing defended the legislation: “The goal with this legislation is to help keep rent more affordable by preventing renovictions and allowing for rent increases to be capped to inflation while ensuring necessary repairs are completed to maintain and improve rental housing.”
“Renovictions” refer to when landlords evict tenants in order to conduct renovations, a process which also allows landlords to hike rents on vacated units. Last year, the B.C. government introduced legislation making it harder for landlords to renovict tenants, but stopped short of outlawing the practice altogether.
Despite the Ministry’s statement, a renter living on a fixed income in the Esquimalt apartment said: “The increases in rent puts me on the razor’s edge financially. To expect moms and pops and old grandmas, grandpas to pick up that bill, it’s ludicrous.”
The legislation allowing landlords to hike rents to cover repair costs also does not state that the increase must roll back after a set period of time, meaning every dollar paid after the costs of the repairs are covered is profit for the landlord.
Rents are already high in Esquimalt, which is part of the Greater Victoria Area and falls within the Capital Regional District. According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, the region is “unaffordable” for renters on low incomes.
A year ago, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation released a report stating that Greater Victoria’s rental market became even more expensive during the first wave of COVID-19, with average monthly rent for a single bedroom apartment increasing by 3.3 per cent to $1,275 between 2019 and 2020.
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