Landlords should have more responsibility for evicted tenants, says Maple Ridge, B.C., councillor

Landlords should have more responsibility for evicted tenants, says Maple Ridge, B.C., councillor

With housing stretched nearly beyond capacity in Maple Ridge, B.C., some city councillors want to see more policies to support renters who are "renovicted" and want greater responsibility placed on landlords to help those renters.

Coun. Craig Speirs says landlords should be required to help tenants find new rental housing if they are forced to move because of rezoning, demolition or redevelopment of the building.

This would mean helping the displaced renter find at least three alternative, but comparable rental options that are in the same area, as well as offering financial compensation, Speirs proposed.

A tenant relocation assistance policy was presented to city council earlier this week, but did not pass.

"I didn't agree with that, but that's just the way it is," Speirs told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Maple Ridge is not the only municipality looking at relocation assistance plans.

In the City of Vancouver, for example, tenants who are living in purpose-built market rentals and are forced to move because of redevelopment have the right certain assistance provisions.

The tenants are entitled to free rent or compensation based on how long they've lived in the unit, the arrangement of movers — or a minimum assistance of between $750 to $1,000, depending on the size of their unit to cover moving costs — and help finding three or more similar places to move into in the area.

The City of North Vancouver and City of New Westminster also have tenant relocation assistance policies.

Low vacancy rates

Speirs says protection for renters from renovictions and demovictions is crucial in Maple Ridge because of the low vacancy rate and the high likelihood of redevelopment.

"Our rental stock is quite old, a lot of it is over 30 years old and some 40," he said. "It's kind of ripe for being rebuilt, so that's the main reason we brought this policy forward."

Although the stipulation of finding tenants a new place to live didn't pass, Maple Ridge has a handful of other new renter protection provisions, including improved communication and notice of plans to redevelop, the first right of refusal to live in the building after completion, and some financial compensation.

"At least we've got a good framework going forward," Speirs said. "But it's just not enough and it's not going to be quick enough. We are going to have to look at other things to produce more rentals."

With files from The Early Edition.