B.C. has highest no-fault eviction rate in Canada, but landlords say rules make valid evictions too difficult

Some landlords say B.C.'s laws make evicting tenants far too difficult for those who rent their secondary suites. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Some landlords say B.C.'s laws make evicting tenants far too difficult for those who rent their secondary suites. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

British Columbia has the highest rate of no-fault evictions in Canada, but some landlords say the province's tenancy rules make it too hard for landlords to raise rent and evict tenants for valid reasons.

No-fault evictions for landlords to renovate, demolish, sell or inhabit a unit, make up about 85 per cent of evictions in B.C., according to recent research from the University of British Columbia.

And they happen nearly twice as often in B.C. compared to the rest of Canada, with some housing experts citing low penalties and rising market rents as incentives for landlords to end tenancies under false pretences, in order to raise rents for the next tenant.

But LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak says the high rate of no-fault evictions is driven by landlords selling their properties to people who want to live in them themselves, because they are unable to raise rents to keep up with their mortgages.

"You cannot survive on negative cash flow year after year after year," Humeniuk told CBC on Thursday.

Christer Waara/CBC
Christer Waara/CBC

Sherryl Yeager says she has considered putting her units on AirBnB instead to avoid dealing with tenancy rules she says leaves landlords with no power and long waits for recourse at the Residential Tenancy Board.

Yeager and her husband need to rent two suites in their home in Vancouver's Grandview-Woodland area to afford the mortgage.

"There's a perception that landlords are rich, fat cats who have tons of money and a lot of us aren't," said Yeager, who estimates her variable mortgage payment has doubled and her monthly property costs have risen by $500 since they purchased the house in 2017.

In 2020 Yeager issued a written warning to a tenant who vaped marijuana for medical reasons, which exacerbated Yeager's asthma in the shared plumbing, even though it was a non-smoking unit. Yeager couldn't evict them due to the ban on evictions during the pandemic.

The tenant filed a human rights complaint and moved out during the wait for a hearing, but the vapour continued for months in the interim. Yeager says she has paid $35,000 in legal fees defending herself from the complaint.

"The current legislation is definitely more favourable for tenants," said Yeager.

Profit incentive drives evictions: lawyer

Tenant advocates say it is still too easy for landlords to evict tenants in B.C. because the onus is on tenants to fight eviction orders rather than on landlords to prove their reasons are true, except in the case of renovictions.

The small penalties for unlawful evictions creates a "perverse incentive" for landlords to evict tenants who have been there the longest and are paying the least in order to raise rents, says Robert Patterson, a lawyer and advocate at Vancouver's Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.

"The profit margin is enough to convince [landlords] to disregard the law."


Challenging an eviction also means risking losing and needing to move in as little as 48 hours, Patterson says, while many tenants who do win compensation for wrongful eviction have already been forced to move.

"We need to have stronger protections to make sure that evictions don't happen in the first place and not just have penalties when they do," he added.

Sarb Mahli, a single mother of two, says the rental income from her secondary suite in Kamloops is her retirement plan.

But Mahli says she is considering making it an AirBnB due to issues she's had evicting tenants who were physically aggressive and violated their leases.

"I don't know where anybody thinks that it's easy. It's not easy," said Mahli. "It was just a waiting game until they moved on."

Calls for more public housing, recourse for landlords

Yeager and Mahli say landlords who don't follow the law should be held accountable, but want separate rules for landlords renting secondary suites and commercial landlords.

Mahli also says tenants displaced by renovations should not be evicted and should be able to return.

Yeager says she knows many homeowners considering short-term rentals or not putting their secondary suites on the market at all.

"The housing crisis is an awful thing for our community and our city to be going through," said Yeager. "But when you have a problem tenant and it's really hard to have them evicted … you can see why people don't want to do it."

Patterson is sympathetic to people who can only afford a home with rental income, but says loosening tenant protections just downloads the burden of skyrocketing housing costs from homeowners to tenants.

He wants to see governments build more public affordable housing to remove profit incentives from housing.

"We need to start thinking about moving away from these models that treat housing as a way to extract wealth from those without and transferring it to those who have it already," said Patterson.