On October 26th, 2017 the Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, introduced Bill 16 in the Provincial Legislature. The bill, an amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) and Manufactured Home Park Act (MHPA), covered many sections of the RTA and addressed significant industry concerns and a couple minor matters of interpretation.
The most significant changes Bill 16 introduced address issues with the misuse of fixed term tenancies with vacate clauses and how the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) initiates and conducts administrative penalties investigations. Another change that will have a substantial effect is the extension of the direct request process to the return of Security Deposits.
There are also some changes to the RTA that address some long-standing issues around interpretation of sections of the Act that refer to rent increases and sublets/assignments. These changes bring these sections in line with contemporary interpretations and industry practices.
As with any piece of legislation, there is a process it must go through to become law. This process began with a First Reading at the legislature, which occurred at October 26th 2017. The next step, a Second Reading at the legislature, occurred on November 2nd 2017.
After the first two readings, the bill must go through the Committee phase, where it is discussed by a committee of both the government and opposition. This is a major step in ensuring the bill is a balanced piece of legislation that addresses the concerns of MLA’s on committee. For Bill 16, this step occurred on November 8th 2017 and was followed by a report to the legislature later that day.
Before a bill can become law, there are two more steps that must occur. The first is a Third Reading at the legislature and the final step is the Royal Assent, a formal ceremony where the Lieutenant Governor introduces the bill as law. Bill 16 underwent the Third Reading on November 8th 2017, where provided the final chance for MLAs to vote for or against this bill. The Royal Assent occurred on November 30th 2017, shortly before the Legislature closed their sessions for this year.
While the bill has gone through the process to become law, there are several aspects of the bill that will require further work for the bill to become active. This work is done in the Residential Tenancy Regulation. The changes to the RTA that refer to fixed term tenancies with vacate clauses require that there are new regulations written to flesh out the exceptions whereby a vacate clause will be enforceable. These regulations are currently being developed by the RTB at the direction of the Minister Robinson and will be passed by cabinet.
While there is no timeline for these regulations, we are hopeful we will see these changes shortly. Until these new regulations are passed by cabinet, the legislation is not in force. Though this legislation is not currently fully in force regarding the fixed terms with vacate clauses, the changes to the RTA are retrospective and will apply to tenancies currently in place.
The provisions that are currently in force are:
- Strengthening the administrative penalties framework by allowing the Director to:
- compel the production of documents as part of an administrative penalty investigation
- publish administrative penalty decisions
- refuse to accept an application for dispute resolution if an administrative penalty is owed, and
- pursue prosecution of an offence where a penalty has been levied, but has not resulted in compliance.
- Clarifying language relating to the service of documents.
- Allowing a landlord to be notified of a proceeding that may materially affect them.
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