A change to British Columbia’s residential tenancy rules has come into effect, providing additional support for victims of family violence and individuals who require long-term care.
The change to the Residential Tenancy Act allows for the early end to 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 will make it easier for tenants who fear for their safety to terminate their leases.
Previously, tenants in these situations could only end a lease early if their landlord agreed; otherwise they faced a financial penalty. Now that this change is in effect, tenants with personal safety or health-care needs can end their lease by giving their landlord one month's written notice, accompanied by written third-party verification confirming the tenant’s eligibility to end their tenancy under the Residential Tenancy Act.
Eligible third-party verifiers are professionals who have expertise in assessing safety or the need for long-term care. Examples include transition house workers, outreach workers, police officers, physicians, victim court support caseworkers, registered social workers, long-term care facility managers or health authority case managers.
The third parties will assess and confirm if a tenant is eligible to end the tenancy early, based their professional knowledge and judgment.
B.C. and Ontario are the only jurisdictions in Canada that do not require a victim of family violence to involve police or the courts in order to end their lease. This change is part of B.C.'s commitment to a Violence-Free BC and supports the Provincial Domestic Violence Plan.
This change is widely supported by landlord and tenant associations, legal advocates, anti-violence and victim-serving organizations, and health authorities.
Another Residential Tenancy Act change now in effect allows landlords to repay a tenant's security deposit by electronic transfer of funds. Previously, deposits had to be returned by ordinary mail, by registered mail or in person. This change supports the provincial government's goal of reducing red tape and supporting changing technology.
Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing –
“In circumstances involving personal safety or health-care needs, we recognize that tenants may need to end a lease early. We are providing this support to make sure people fleeing family violence or needing long-term care can break a lease without being subjected to additional financial penalties.”
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“It’s important for people who are experiencing relationship violence to feel supported in leaving a bad situation. The change to the Residential Tenancy Act means that survivors no longer have to face the additional stress of losing money due to lease penalties. It means they can potentially find a safer situation and begin the healing process sooner.”
Darryl Plecas, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors to the Minister of Health –
“When a senior makes a move into a long-term care home, we know that they, as well as family members, face pressures to make sure the transition is a smooth as possible. The step taken by the Province to change the Residential Tenancy Act means one less thing to worry about when helping a loved one settle in to their new surroundings.”
Kendra Milne, director of law reform, West Coast LEAF –
"The changes to B.C.'s residential tenancy laws announced today are a positive step towards removing barriers for women fleeing violence. Women face many obstacles when leaving an abusive situation, and financial penalties associated with breaking a lease should not be an additional barrier. This is an important step in supporting women to seek safety."
For more information on residential tenancies in B.C., please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies
Third-party verifiers can find more information on the Residential Tenancy Branch website at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/ending-a-tenancy/ending-a-tenancy-in-special-circumstances/family-violence-or-long-term-care#Third
For more information on domestic violence and how to get help or safely help someone you know, visit: www.saysomethingbc.ca/domestic-violence/index.html