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As of January 1st, 2004 the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act came into effect. These new changes are, for the most part good and sensible. According to MLA Rich Coleman a lot of the changes are rooted in the government’s desire to substantially eliminate the cost of arbitrations and disputes that are malicious or ingenuine or aimed at deferring an expense or vacancy. The idea is to make issues more cut and dried, quickly resolvable as determined by legislation not arbitration. For example arbitrators may no longer issue conditional orders or set aside notices of ending tenancies for unreasonable hardship.

Landlords benefit from a streamlined eviction process. Failure to pay rent when due is cause for eviction, time extensions are not permitted without landlord consent and a tenant’s ability to appeal is severely restricted to a few extraordinary circumstances. Further, the landlord can terminate for repeated late rents or failure to pay for agreed utilities billed back to the landlord. The landlord has the right to inspect monthly with proper notice. Landlords can end a tenancy for illegal activities that jeopardize the property or other tenants or the landlord’s interest. Landlords can for the first time charge an additional deposit of 1/2 of 1 month rent for pets, except guide dogs.

Tenants also have benefited from the changes to the Act. Most relevant is that if a landlord chooses to evict a tenant because he wants to use the home for personal or family use or is selling to a person who will occupy the home, or intends to renovate the home, then the landlord will pay to the tenant 1 month’s rent as compensation for having to move. Also, failure to return deposits within 15 days will result in the landlord paying double the deposit back. Landlords cannot charge additional fees for overnight guests or charge an application or processing fee.

Of mutual interest is the new requirement for an Inspection Report agreed to by both parties at the time the occupancy commences. No inspection report, no claim against the damage deposit later. All tenancies expire at 1:00pm on the last day of the tenancy thus allowing time for the landlord to prep for a new tenant the next day.

Both landlords and tenants will find issues to complain about in the new Act but overall I think the legislation is fair to both parties. Most importantly the dispute process is accelerated and refined. It is the unscrupulous tenant or landlord that spoils it for everyone else and the quicker these people and their games are resolved, the better for all concerned. I expect the legislation to do that.

For more info go to http://www.gov.bc.ca and type ‘rto’ in the search bar.