Landlord-tenant penalties are not working

by Jennifer Paterson07 May 2015
Penalties introduced to protect landlords from bad tenants, and vice versa, have largely failed to deal with abuses, charges a Vancouver MLA, and experts agree.

“It is seven years later and [the penalties] still have never really been used,” MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert told CREW. “I found there isn’t any real political will to make it work."

Administrative penalties were introduced by the Residential Tenancy Branch in 2008 as a means of dealing with both negligent landlords and tenants outside of the court system.

Through a Freedom of Information request, MLA Chandra Herbert found out about a "serial" tenant who has defrauded landlords of $25,000 by skipping out on rent and doing it over and over again.

“In any other place, if you were robbing convenience stores, you would end up in jail," he added. "But when it comes to landlords and tenants, there is no fine, no real penalty. This person has got away with living rent-free for a very long time."

David Hutniak of LandlordBC agrees that landlords have inadequate protection and very little recourse, particularly against chronically abusive tenants, but the organization is equally unhappy to learn about any situation where a landlords behaves unprofessionally and fails to respect their tenant’s rights.

“The administrative penalties against landlords are in our view are also inadequate as reflected in the Act today,” adds Hutniak. 

But what is the solution? MLA Chandra Herbert says the government needs to get tough on these law breakers.

“That means putting some dedicated resources into the system, so that when you have these people that break the law, you can actually find them, penalize them to a degree that they won’t do it again, or they can be set as an example.

“It’s just about a clear set of guidelines and policy, getting that ready and start enforcing it, and I think both landlords and tenants would agree that’s a good thing to do.”

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