A long low lying building, with glass windows. Three flag poles are in front

Port Moody calls on province to set up and enforce rental maintenance standards across B.C.

Editor’s note: If the province sets up minimum standards for rentals, as Port Moody is calling for (below), it will have an impact on our area. According to the 2021 census, 75 of Cortes Island’s 555 occupied dwellings were in need of major repairs. This was also true of 105 of the 1330 homes in Area C. A significant percentage of these buildings would have been rentals. The Collecting Stories of Where You Are Survey, carried out in both areas the following year, includes responses from people renting units that did not have indoor plumbing, water or ‘sufficient and affordable heating.’

By Patrick Penner, Tri-Cities Dispatch, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Although Port Moody is developing its own bylaw to direct maintenance standards for rental units, city council is asking the provincial government to set up and and enforce B.C.-wide standards. 

Couns. Amy Lubik and Samantha Agrtarap introduced a resolution for debate at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) and the Union of B.C. Municipalities conferences later this year. It was passed unanimously at Port Moody council on Feb. 13.

The resolution argues that minimum standards need to be set to ensure the health and safety of the province’s rental units, and the province is the only institution with the capacity to regulate the issue.

“Every community, whether you’re rural and remote, or densely urban, is having these problems, and we need to protect our renters,” Lubik said.

Rental-maintenance standards would ensure that tenants are housed in safe and livable conditions, free of potentially dangerous hazards like mould.

Not many municipalities in B.C. have created their own rental standards bylaws, and where they do exist, they are frequently inconsistent and unenforced, according to Lubik. She said some bylaws simply require the properties to be free of garbage.

And while the province has a Standards of Maintenance Guide, it is not enforceable.

“Currently, it’s very difficult for renters to know where to go,” Lubik said. “You’re kind of going from person to person to find out who can actually help you.”

Development of local rental-maintenance bylaws were recommended in the 2018 BC Rental Housing Task Force report. The report recounted testimony of renters living in unsafe and uninhabitable conditions as result of the lack of maintenance, and listed: “inadequate maintenance and building conditions” as the top challenge across B.C.

Shoddy maintenance has been a recurring problem in Port Moody, according to the motion. 

Lubik said she knows of four local residents dealing with these issues, including one woman whose apartment has had mould problems since 2016.

Renters often try to take their complaints to the Residential Tenancy Branch, which doesn’t have the expertise or resources; local health authorities, which lack proper authority, or to the city, according to Lubik.

Even in the City of Surrey, where a standards of maintenance bylaw exists, local tenant unions have complained the rules are not being enforced.

“This is something where every local government should have something in place,” Lubik said. “But it’s very difficult, depending on the size on the government, because you do need the enforcement and you need the people who know what to look for.”

Ontario and Alberta task their health authorities with investigation and enforcement of rental standards, and Lubik said the B.C. government needs to set up its own regulatory body.

She added climate changes will bring more extreme weather events like flooding and atmospheric rivers. This, in turn, will increase the chance of mould forming, and increase the need for province-wide standards, resources and investigative capabilities.

Agtarap noted the BC Building Code will be incorporating new maximum and minimum temperatures, and the province should extend the same protections to the existing rental stock.

Port Moody submitted a similar resolution to the LMLGA last year, calling for required cooling in rentals following the deadly effects of the 2021 heat dome.

While that resolution was ultimately rejected, Mayor Meghan Lahti said Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee recognized Port Moody’s efforts and has now issued a slightly altered version of the motion.

Top image photo supplied courtesy Patrick Penner

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