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B.C. tenants might not be getting repairs in suites due to COVID-19: advocacy group

Last Updated Jul 3, 2020 at 11:30 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

Some landlords are in bad shape financially and might have to put off fixing projects

Tenants advocates say as many as 25 per cent of renters are in arrears, putting landlords in a bind

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’re a renter, that leaking faucet or that broken closet door might not get fixed as soon as you’d like.

Some prolonged disrepair might be more unintended fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We always hear from tenants who have those types concerns, but because of the economic impact from COVID, we are going to be hearing more from tenants in these situations,” says Robert Patterson, a legal advocate with the Tenant Resource Advisory Centre (TRAC).

Tenants in a basement suite or other small properties might be particularly vulnerable, says Patterson. While large, corporate landlords have more tenants, and have more rental income to fall back on — even if a few renters are failing to pay rent — small landlords don’t have that luxury, he explains.

“Based on our numbers, there might be as many as 25 per cent of tenants who are in arrears on their rent. Some landlords may be disproportionately affected because their only tenant can’t pay rent and now they’re not seeing any rent on that property,” he notes. “If that landlord is a small landlord and has lost significant amounts of their income and they have lost rental incomes, they may not have money for repairs.”

Patterson says the pandemic is putting both landlords and tenants in a “massive bind.”

“Landlords may feel they don’t have the reliable sources of income that they have been depending on. They are nervous about spending money on repairs for the tenants but they are also nervous about paying their mortgage or feeding their family.”

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord BC, says he hasn’t heard of any landlords overlooking repairs. He does point out landlords have the authority, once again, to enter suites without a tenant’s consent, with 24-hour prior notice.

“It is our view that everyone is trying to do their best under very trying circumstances,” he says. “But maintenance standards are legislated/regulated and we are confident that the vast majority of landlords, certainly those among our 3300 members, have and will continue to respond as promptly as is possible.”

Because thousands of renters are in arrears and are expected to pay up once the state of emergency ends, TRAC is lobbying for the province to forgive those debts. Patterson says the province needs to also extend supports for landlords, who can demonstrate they can’t keep up with their mortgages.

“We are really concerned with what the government has proposed. Tenants are going to be let down. Thousands are going to lose their homes because the government is only going to pursue a repayment plan.”

In the meantime, Patterson says tenants who are in suites needing repairs should follow normal procedures, by writing to landlords to specify the problem, and pursuing the matter with the Residential Tenancy Branch, if there is no response by landlords.

Landlords are now allowed to proceed with evictions that are unrelated to unpaid rent. Any rent increases cannot take effect until the provincial state of emergency is over.