British Columbia is beefing up its residential housing agency that resolves tenant-landlord disputes over issues including unfair evictions, unpaid rent and damage.
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the Residential Tenancy Branch budget will be increased by about $15.6 million over three years, allowing the hiring of 50 new staff.
The branch’s compliance enforcement unit, which handles repeat or serious offences and can impose fines, will have staffing doubled from five to 10.
The changes are aimed at helping tenants and landlords with more timely and efficient service, Kahlon said at a news conference. The branch would be able to intervene earlier in disputes, potentially preventing or resolving issues before they advance to a hearing stage.
“With the hiring of these additional staff, wait times will begin to decrease and disputes will be resolved sooner,” he said. “This will alleviate financial impacts to landlords and, of course, address precarious housing situations for tenants. It is important that there is a system in place that can deliver timely resolution of disputes between parties in rental agreements.”
The Residential Tenancy Branch provides landlords and tenants with information and dispute resolution services and is guided by B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.
The branch receives about 200,000 requests for information or help each year and more than 20,000 applications for dispute resolution, according to the Ministry of Housing.
Dispute resolution applications have increased by 21 per cent since 2018, and the numbers continuing to rise, the ministry says.
The branch has received an average of 1,811 dispute resolution applications per month this year, compared to 1,496 per month between 2018 and 2020.
“That’s why increasing the capacity of the (compliance enforcement) unit gives us the ability to both address issues that don’t need to go through the entire process, but also identify some serious issues that need to be dealt with faster,” Kahlon said. “We’re going to be able to do both of those.”
Tenants and landlords have clearly said the current dispute resolution process isn’t working fast enough, he said.
LandlordBC spokesman David Hutniak said in a statement that the sooner landlord-tenant disputes are resolved, the quicker rental units can return to the market.
The B.C. government this year capped rent increases at two per cent.