B.C. Court of Appeal upholds New Westminster's anti-renoviction bylaw

·2 min read
The City of New Westminster says it has over 9,000 purpose-built rental units in more than 300 buildings. (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)
The City of New Westminster says it has over 9,000 purpose-built rental units in more than 300 buildings. (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)

A renoviction bylaw enacted in New Westminster two years ago has now survived a legal challenge in both levels of provincial court.

On April 30 the B.C. Court of Appeal unanimously upheld a previous ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court in favour of the bylaw, rejecting a challenge by a private limited company that sought to evict all residents of a 21-unit building at the same time.

"I was so excited, but also very relieved," said New Westminster director of development services Emilie Adin.

"I had heard from a lot of municipalities that they were interested in all the work that we were doing around renovictions, but they were quite daunted by the fact that we had been sued. So it was a real relief for us to get that news."

In a statement, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté argued the court's ruling showed the city bylaw was complimentary to the province's Residential Tenancy Act.

"This important ruling supports the city in taking bold steps to directly respond to the housing crisis," he said.

According to the city, there are more than 9,000 purpose-built rental units in more than 300 buildings across the municipality.

Company bought apartment; challenged bylaw weeks later

New Westminster passed its bylaw in February 2019. It is intended to prevent landlords from evicting tenants under the guise of renovations and then increasing the rent.

Landlords caught doing so could be fined up to $1,000 a day and lose their business licences. In addition, if they want a licence to evict an entire building for repair work, they have to apply to the city and prove the renovations are necessary and would make it unlivable.

In May 2019, a private company purchased a 21-unit building, constructed in 1959, and applied for a judicial review of the bylaw three weeks later.

The company argued that New Westminster did not have municipal authority to pass the bylaw under the Community Charter — but the Supreme Court ruling found the charter "regulates the health, safety or protection of persons or property in relation to rental units and residential property subject to a tenancy agreement."

On appeal, all three appeal court justices found the same, also finding the bylaw did not contradict the province's own Residential Tenancy Act.

"The city has a long-standing concern with the need to preserve local affordable rental housing and has recently become particularly concerned with a perceived increase in the risk of renovictions in New Westminster," wrote Madam Justice Dickson.

"So long as complementary local laws do not frustrate other legislation, 'in an area of jurisdictional overlap, the level of government that is closest to the matter will often introduce complementary legislation to accommodate local circumstances.'"

New Westminster has also recently won a Supreme Court ruling on its use of rental-only zoning.