Policy Change and the Evolution of Law

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We tend to think of the law as being fixed and unchangeable. Laws are written and then they stick around forever. People learn what ‘the law’ is and then get taken by surprise when things change. But the law changes all the time. Here are some recent changes to tenancy and housing laws.


Yukon’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is brand new. It has been in force for almost exactly 2 years. Yukon has benefited from being able to see how provincial tenancy law has worked and that has given a framework to compare with. Introducing the law has caused big changes for tenants and landlords. With any new law, there are those that feel it goes too far and those who think it doesn’t go far enough. http://www.community.gov.yk.ca/pdf/Yukon_Residential_LandlordTenant_Act_HANDBOOK.pdf


There have been big changes recently in BC with the new coalition government. The one that will probably affect the most landlords and tenants is the removal of the ‘renew or vacate’ clause. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/news This means that landlords can no longer force tenants to either leave their fixed term tenancy at the end, or sign a new, completely different tenancy. Importantly, this stops the massive jumps in rent amounts between fixed terms that were a feature of the old system. Landlords need to have a legal reason to ask tenants to leave.


Passed on May 18 2017, the Rental Fairness Act was designed to deal with rapidly increasing rents and essentially makes rent increases above the Provincial amount illegal. It has tightened up some loopholes.


Sometimes federal law changes and affects housing issues. One of the upcoming legislative changes to watch out for is the proposed Cannabis Act. Landlords are concerned that the Act proposes to allow people to “grow up to 4 cannabis plants, up to a maximum height of 100cm, per residence for personal use from licensed seed or seedlings”. Yet, just because something is allowable, does not mean that landlords have to allow it. Smoking tobacco is legal but it doesn’t follow that people can do it in their rental.
Laws change because of a changing legal, economic and political landscape. For example, rising prices in BC have caused the Residential Tenancy Act to look biased towards landlords because the market is so tight. But in a high vacancy market, it would look pro-tenant. Governments go through a process, involving many stages when laws are changed. They have to look at the cost and benefit of laws, how easy it is to change them, and what unintended consequences could arise. It is costly and difficult to change law and, like a sweater, once you start pulling a thread, the whole thing can unravel.

How do landlords and tenants find out about new laws?

For big changes, as in Yukon, the media plays a larger role. People will hear about the process and be asked in many cases to comment. But if you are a landlord or a tenant you may need to make it a habit to check the ‘news’ on tenancy law to stay informed. BC has an excellent news page on the Residential Tenancy Branch website.
If you know of recent legal changes that impact housing in your community or province, please let us know… we are always on the lookout for changes so that we can ensure that RentSmart materials remain up to date.



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