February 7, 2020
Renters will be able to receive their security and pet deposits back in a fair and timely manner, thanks to changes made by the Government of B.C.
“Renters should not have to go through a time-consuming process to have their deposits returned to them,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are taking action to make the residential tenancy system work better for landlords and tenants, and this is another step in making sure everyone is treated fairly.”
Under the old process, renters had to apply for a dispute resolution hearing if their landlord did not return their uncontested deposits within 15 days of the end of the rental agreement. This formal hearing with the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) meant that renters had to wait to have their money returned to them.
To solve this, the Province is creating an expedited process. Renters with successful applications will receive an order for the return of the deposit that they can then serve to their landlord or enforce through the small claims court. The RTB has a similar process in place to help landlords recover unpaid rent or utilities. These changes give renters the ability to use the same simplified process to get their deposit back.
“The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) supports the decision to make the RTB’s direct request process available to tenants seeking the recovery of their security and pet damage deposits. We regularly hear from tenants whose landlords refuse to return deposits without justification, knowing that the time and hassle of the standard dispute-resolution process will lead many to simply give up,” said Andrew Sakamoto, executive director, TRAC. “TRAC hopes this change will both enable tenants to better stand up for their rights and discourage unscrupulous landlords from illegally retaining deposits.”
Renters can apply for this expedited process in person at the RTB office in Burnaby, at any Service BC location or online (effective Feb. 18, 2020).
“The use of a direct request for the return of security deposits is a constructive step to improve the efficiency of the process for both tenants and landlords,” said David Hutniak, chief executive officer, LandlordBC. “Landlords claiming to retain part or all of the deposits to recoup the cost of damages to their rental suites will continue to have access to a participatory hearing, which ensures that they will be able to state their case to an arbitrator. Overall, we expect this new process to work well.”
This new process is the next step in the phased implementation of the Rental Housing Task Force’s recommendations to make B.C.’s rental housing system fairer, more affordable and more secure.
Action on housing and ensuring fairness for renters and landlords are shared priorities between government and the BC Green Party caucus and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
- This change is in response to recommendation 18 of the Rental Housing Task Force, which was to speed up the return of security deposits by allowing tenants to make a direct request to the RTB where the landlord has not made a claim.
- The new process is among the many changes that government has made to improve renting in B.C., including:
- changing the laws to provide stronger protection for renters facing eviction as a result of renovations or demolitions by increasing compensation for bad-faith evictions, strengthening requirements for eviction notifications, allowing more time to find alternative housing and giving renters the right of refusal to return to a unit following renovations;
- updating tenancy laws to close what is known as the fixed-term lease loophole, eliminating the geographic rent increase clause and better protecting people living in manufactured home parks;
- investing $6.8 million in new funding for the RTB to reduce wait times for tenancy disputes, hire new staff to reduce wait times and address backlog and create a new compliance unit to take action against serious offenders;
- cutting the annual allowable rent increase by 2%, limiting it to inflation, to help ease pressure on renters; and
- improving the Rental Assistance Program and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters to give families and seniors on fixed income a break from rising costs.
Residential Tenancy Branch website: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies
Online application for dispute resolution (service portal): www.gov.bc.ca/landlordtenant/online
Residential Housing Task Force recommendations: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/121/2018/12/RHTF-Recommendations-and-WWH-Report_Dec2018_FINAL.pdf