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Renters' rights: Everything Vancouver tenants need to know when facing a renoviction

When can a landlord ask you to move out? What protections are in place for Vancouver renters? How could the Broadway Plan affect tenants and renovictions?
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As the Broadway Plan nears likely approval, Vancouver renters are worried about an uptick in renovictions - being made to move out for redevelopment or renovations. Here's everything tenants need to know about their rights.

More than 500 city blocks, upwards of 50,000 new residents, 25 per cent of the city’s rental stock, a 30-year vision and on it goes.

That’s a whole lot of numbers. And a whole lot of consternation.

Given the level of rancour, uncertainty and, oftentimes confusion, associated with the Broadway Plan, Vancouver Is Awesome has combed both provincial and municipal legislation to give renters a sense of what their rights are and what they’re entitled to if they have to move and what happens in the messy event of a renoviction.

Given the plan likely won’t be passed until later this month – if not later –  we begin with provincial legislation taken from the Residential Tenancy Act that was updated in July 2021.

When would a tenancy have to end for renovations?

The first thing to note, despite what your landlord may tell you, is that most renos and repairs can be done without ending a tenancy – repainting, replacing flooring, or installing new kitchen cabinets and countertops, for example.

If a tenancy is to end, these four benchmarks must be met:

1 - the landlord has all the necessary permits and approvals required by law and intends in good faith to renovate or repair the rental unit.

“When a landlord is acting in good faith, it means they honestly intend to renovate or repair the rental unit so extensively that it must be vacant. The landlord would not be acting in good faith if they are trying to evict the tenant so they can rent it to another tenant for more money without doing extensive renovations or repairs,” the legislation notes.

2 - the renovations or repairs require the unit to be vacant.

3 - the renovations or repairs are necessary to prolong or sustain the use of the rental unit or the building where the rental unit is located.

4 - the only reasonable way to achieve the necessary vacancy is to end the tenancy agreement.

If those criteria are met, the landlord has to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to end the tenancy and an arbitrator gets involved. A four-month window to end the tenancy then comes into play if the unit will be demolished; the property is converted into strata lots, non-profit or co-op housing; the unit will be used by a caretaker, manager or superintendent; or the unit will be converted into non-residential use.

Here's some good news: large-scale renos and repairs almost always require permitting approval from local government. You can check with your municipality to see if those permits and inspections are needed and get a better sense of if your landlord’s intentions are above board.

More good news: the type of work that requires a unit to be vacated is usually massive and pretty self-explanatory: asbestos remediation, electricity being shut off for weeks on end, or a big fix that requires a rental unit to be stripped down to the studs to replace insulation, electrical wiring or plumbing.

What kinds of renovations or repairs won't force you to move out?

Here are a few examples of what doesn’t, or very likely doesn’t, require you to get out of dodge:

* re-wiring a circuit or replacing receptacles and switches.
* replacing a boiler/furnace, electric baseboard heaters, faucets/fixtures, a bathtub or even the building’s roof. The only likely exception for roof replacement would be to accommodate for seismic upgrades.
* replacing doors, cabinet, countertops, flooring/baseboards, appliances or interior doors.

You've been told you have to move out. Now what?

Let’s say things appear legit and your landlord has told you to move. You’ve applied for arbitration, lost and are required to re-locate.  What happens next?

First off, you can accept a buyout from your landlord but are under no obligation to do so. Sadly, the law says you’re only entitled to one month’s rent if the landlord’s actions are legit.

However, if those renovations and repairs aren’t done within a “reasonable amount of time” after you’re out, you are in line to receive an amount equal to 12 times the monthly rent payable under the tenancy agreement. That said, what is defined as a “reasonable amount of time,” is not clearly outlined in the legislation.

Vancouver renters: What protections does the city offer?

Over to the city’s renter protections, some of which are already on the books and others that are proposed as part of the Broadway Plan.

Updated pre-pandemic in 2019, the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy includes some pain relief for those who have to move. But not much.

If your building is being redeveloped under a development permit, the owners or developers must provide you with a tenant relocation plan that describes how the landlord/developer will help you move. In some cases, a “tenant impact statement” will be provided to renters who are able to remain on-site during renovations.

Now, if you do have to move, you’re entitled to four months’ notice and that notice can only come once the landlord or developer has all their permitting ducks in a row. The relocation assistance set out by the city includes free rent or compensation based on the length of tenancy; help with moving costs and some assistance to identify three or more places to which you could move.

Renter protections proposed in Vancouver's Broadway Plan

And finally, over the boatload of proposed protections included in the Broadway Plan. These clauses still require a council vote, which will likely happen in late June.

* tenants who are displaced will able able to return to a new rental unit at a 20 per cent discount to citywide average market rents or at the tenant’s current rent, whichever is less.

* new rental buildings would be required to set aside 20 per cent of units at discounted rates tied to the unit, not the tenant. Those below-market units would rent at a 20 per cent discount in perpetuity.

* a sliding scale of compensation based on the length of tenancy. A few of those examples include: four months’ rent for tenancies up to five years; six months’ rent for tenancies 10 to 20 years; 12 months’ rent for tenancies 20 to 30 years and 24 months’ rent for tenancies exceeding four decades.

* Moving expenses or costs covered for moving companies to the tune of $750 for a studio and one-bedroom unit and $1,000 for two-or-more bedroom units.

* Additional support for low-income tenants will be offered at a rate of $30,000 or less for households without dependents and $50,000 or less for households with dependents. These tenants will eligible for help finding new digs where they pay no more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.

Last but not least, it’s important to note your rent can’t go up simply because a lot across the street or next door was redeveloped. Provincial tenancy laws stipulate that rental increases for an existing tenant can’t exceed the rate of inflation, which is 1.5% for 2022.

The Broadway Plan will once again go before council on June 22.