The B.C. government has introduced legislative changes intended to support tenants fleeing family violence, reduce red tape for landlords and tenants and make it easier for members to terminate a strata corporation.
Proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act will allow for the early termination of a fixed-term tenancy, commonly known as a lease, by a tenant who is fleeing family violence or who has been accepted into a long-term care facility. This supports government’s commitment to a Violence-Free BC and supports vulnerable seniors.
A further change will allow landlords to repay security deposits by electronic transfer of funds, supporting the Province’s goal of reducing red tape and embracing changing technology.
B.C. is also proposing changes to the Strata Property Act to allow strata corporation members to terminate the corporation by an 80% vote. Currently, a unanimous vote is needed, making it extremely difficult to wind up a corporation in cases where a building is at the end of its life cycle or where strata members wish to sell their property for redevelopment.
The provincial government has consulted extensively on the proposed changes, which are widely supported by landlord and tenant groups and condominium owners’ associations.
Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing –
“We want to support the personal safety and health-care needs of people with fixed-term tenancy agreements, and also reduce red-tape for landlords. For strata owners, there’s a need to give them flexibility when their property reaches the end of its life cycle or when the strata members want to re-develop.”
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“Fleeing a violent relationship can be difficult, and comes with a range of emotions and issues, including financial stress. These amendments will better help British Columbians who are fleeing violence by allowing them to sever their financial ties to their abusers earlier and begin the healing process.”
Darryl Plecas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for Seniors –
“A home is someone’s safe haven. These changes will allow seniors to feel secure in their living situations and more comfortable making the transition to the next stage of their journey.”
Tony Gioventu, executive director, Condominium Home Owners' Association –
“This will be a welcome change for condo owners in B.C. who are struggling with aging buildings that are now imposing extremely high costs for renewals, and are prevented from considering redevelopment offers because they cannot obtain a unanimous vote of the strata. A unanimous vote is virtually impossible in most strata corporations as it requires a vote in favour of the proposal by every owner. The provisions for an 80% vote that require the approval of the courts will ensure that the minority interests are still protected and the liquidation is beneficial for the strata as a collective, not just a focused interest group.”
For more information on residential tenancies in B.C., please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies
For more information on strata housing in B.C., please visit http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/strata-housing
A backgrounder follows.
Sandra SteiloMedia Relations
Ministry of Natural Gas Development
The first of two proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act would allow tenants to end a fixed-term tenancy (lease) early, in cases where the tenant is fleeing family violence or has been accepted into a long-term care facility.
Currently, tenants can’t end a lease early without a financial penalty, unless the landlord agrees. Under the proposed changes, tenants with personal safety or health-care needs could end their lease by giving their landlord one month’s written notice, accompanied by written third-party verification (eligible third-party verifiers will be professionals who have expertise in assessing risk and safety related to family violence or the need for long-term care).
This is part of B.C.’s commitment to a Violence-Free BC and aligns with commitments in the Provincial Domestic Violence Plan. Another proposed change to the act would allow landlords to repay a tenant’s security deposit by electronic transfer of funds. Currently, deposits must be returned by ordinary mail, by registered mail or in person. This change will support the government’s goal of reducing red tape and supporting changing technology.
Government consulted extensively on these changes, with landlord and tenant associations; legal advocates; anti-violence and victim-serving organizations; and health authorities. The proposed changes are widely supported.
Proposed amendment to the Strata Property Act
A proposed change to the Strata Property Act will make it easier for owners to terminate a strata corporation by lowering the voting threshold from a unanimous vote to a new 80% vote of all owners. There is also court oversight to protect minority dissenting owners and registered chargeholders (e.g. mortgage providers).
Owners may wish to terminate their strata corporation for several reasons. As older strata corporations reach the end of their life cycle, major building and common property components start to fail, resulting in expensive repair bills. In some cases, strata owners want to sell the property to a developer who can put it to better or more profitable uses. For example, strata members living in a low-rise building on a large property may see the opportunity to have the land redeveloped into a larger building with more units.
Currently, a unanimous vote is needed to terminate a strata corporation. The proposed changes would allow termination by an 80% vote of all the owners, making it easier for a majority of owners to terminate their strata corporation, if they decide it’s in their best interests.
In developing these proposed changes, the provincial government consulted extensively with the British Columbia Law Institute Strata Property Law Project Committee, which includes: expert strata lawyers; representation from the Urban Development Institute, and the two major strata associations: the Condominium Home Owners Association and the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association.
In 2014, the provincial government asked the BC Law Institute to review strata termination requirements. The proposed changes to the Strata Property Act are based on the BC Law Institute’s recommendation to government and are widely supported.