Tenants’​ Rights during the State of Emergency in BC

Vancouver building

BC has extended the State of Emergency (“SOE”) in this province until the end of April 2020 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would not be a surprise if it was extended again for the month of May.

During the SOE, rent cannot be increased and tenants cannot be evicted for:

  • Unpaid rent or utilities
  • Cause (i.e. breach of the tenancy agreement)
  • Landlord or purchaser use (i.e. landlord or new purchaser wants to move into the rental unit –and even if the notice to vacate was given BEFORE the law was changed)
  • End of employment as a caretaker
  • End of employment if the rental unit is being rented as a condition of employment
  • Demolition, renovation, and conversion of a rental unit (or closure of a manufactured home park)
  • Failure to qualify for a rental unit in subsidized housing
  • If the tenant has given the landlord a notice to vacate and then changed his or her mind

Despite being uncollectible, unpaid rent still accrues and it must be paid in full when the SOE is ended, so the tenant should make all reasonable efforts to pay some or all of the rent during the SOE if he or she is able to do so. 

Talking to the landlord and trying to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement is always advisable.

There are some tenant support programs currently in place:

1.    BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

2.    Temporary Rent Supplement

3.    Federal government financial support

For those trying to sell or buy a property that is tenanted, be advised that it is almost impossible to guarantee vacant possession on the completion date in view of the foregoing changes to tenancy law in BC.

In cases where a notice under s.49 the Residential Tenancy Act to vacate the property due to a sale was given before the law changed AND the tenant has decided not to move out, that may give the purchaser grounds to terminate a contract of purchase and sale on the basis of the legal doctrine of frustration.

These are challenging times that we are living in and the law is constantly changing to adapt to the situation.

When in doubt about your legal rights, it’s always advisable to consult legal counsel. 

As you may know, lawyers have been designated an essential service, so they are available to help you with legal issues (although many are working from home, so meeting with a lawyer may be by phone or videoconferencing).

Court services have been substantially restricted, so one’s access to justice, except when exigent circumstances exist, is limited. (See: https://www.bccourts.ca/)

Our area of specialty is real estate, so we can still assist you with a sale, purchase or re-mortgage of your home, notwithstanding the pandemic.

Recently, the LTSA (Land Titles Survey Authority) and the LSBC (Law Society of British Columbia) have authorized lawyers to witness land titles documents remotely via video conferencing technology (such as Zoom or Skype). Thus, if the client has access to a computer, webcam, printer and scanner at home or at his office, arrangements can be made for remote signing during the pandemic.

Most institutional lenders are on board with remote signing and several title insurance companies have agreed to title insure remotely signed conveyances and mortgage re-finances.

If remote signing is not possible, we can still see you in person, and in such case, we will do our best to keep everyone as safe as possible in the process.

Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.

Hopefully, we will all be looking back on this a few months from now, having learned some valuable lessons and perhaps a few new skills.

©Pazder Law Corporation (2020)

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Questions? Call Kenneth Pazder or Melissa Valana (604-682-1509)

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is presented for information purposes only. As the law is constantly changing, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s always advisable to update any legal information that you are going to rely on.

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