Close to a third of the population (34.6%) live in rental accommodations. Given Cortes Island’s popularity as a tourist destination, it’s not surprising that a significant proportion are forced to move out of their homes every summer, when landlords either take up residence themselves or use these buildings as lucrative vacation rentals. According to a recent post by Regional Director Noba Anderson the BC Residential Tenancy Act changed recently. There is a controversy over the lack of rental rentals.
Not My Initial Understanding
This was not my initial understanding of the Residential Tenancy Act, which contains a number of references to ‘fixed term tenancies.’ As the name suggests, these end on a specific date – at which point the tenant is required to vacate the unit.
When I mentioned this to Director Anderson, she replied, “I got this information from speaking with someone in the residential tenancy dept. I would happily be corrected – Let’s please get to the bottom of this!”
Box E in The RTB1 Form
As Shirley point out in the comment section below, the RESIDENTIAL TENANCY POLICY GUIDELINE (30) states:
“an owner can rent out their vacation property under a fixed term tenancy with a vacate clause if they or their close family member intend in good faith to occupy the property at the end of the fixed term. There is no minimum amount of time that a landlord or close family member must occupy the rental unit. Occupancy can be part time, e.g., weekends only.”
No sooner had I published this article, than Director Anderson asked for my help adjusting the audio levels on the recording of a phone call she had just had with yet another staff person (Sarah) in the Regional Tenancy Branch.
Sarah told Anderson that if the landland clicks on box E in the RTB1 form, found on the Residential Tenancy website, the landlord or a close relative can reoccupy the home for an unspecified length of time. Otherwise, the 6 month rule applies. (Regardless, no tenants can be evicted during the COVID crises.)
This agrees with (13.1), quoted in my article about the April 14 virtual community meeting, which states, “the circumstances in which a landlord may include in a fixed term tenancy agreement a requirement that the tenant vacate a rental unit at the end of the term are that:
- (a) the landlord is an individual, and
- (b) that landlord, or a close family member of that landlord, intends in good faith at the time of entering into the tenancy agreement to occupy the rental unit at the end of the term.”
The COVID Clauses
This is in addition to another amendment, which states that during the current COVID crises tenants cannot be evicted for:
- “Unpaid rent or utilities”
- “Landlord or purchaser use”
- “End of employment as a caretaker”
- “End of employment if the rental unit is being rented as a condition of employment”
- “Demolition, renovation, and conversion of a rental unit (or closure of a manufactured home park)”
- “Failure to qualify for a rental unit in subsidized housing”
- “Landlords who are selling their home should talk to their realtor or legal counsel about what impact, if any, being unable to achieve vacant possession of the property may have on their sale.”
Landlords can apply to end a tenancy if they can show their tenant engaged in illegal activity, or “seriously jeopardized the health or safety or a lawful right or interest of the landlord or another occupant.”
The Reason Why
I suspect anyone who has lived on Cortes knows people who have been evicted to make way for summer rentals.
One of the most publicized incidents is the McKenty family, who were finally forced off the island in 2018. For the ten years prior to that, they rented a house for ten months a year and took up residence where-ever they could during the summer months.
There are half a dozen cases, mostly from well known community leaders, displayed on the Cortes Community Housing website. One of them mentions the stress, physical and mental, of moving five times in less than 18 monthsprior to him finding his present rental, which is becoming too small to accommodate his family.
I interviewed several people caught up in this situation including Director Anderson herself who made the transition from renter to owner about 17 years ago:
“I moved around every year for a few years and couldn’t handle it so I bought a motor home … I didn’t want to pack my stuff up and move two or three time a year.”
One of Cortes Radio’s DJs and a trainer from the Deep Roots series were both forced to move to Quadra Island because of the lack of long term rentals on Cortes.
The Landlord’s Side
There is another side to this story.
Tourism is an important revenue source on Cortes Island. According to the Cortes Island community Health profile, “17.8% of employed residents work in sales and services, which includes
accommodations.” Tourists east in the island’s restaurants, buy groceries, go on eco-tours and purchase local arts & crafts.
Some people obtain a significant portion of their income through vacation rentals.
Others finance properties they hope to eventually retire to by renting them out, and perhaps take up residence themselves during the summer.
It is also a way for people to purchase a second home and obtain some benefit in a real estate market where prices keep increasing.
Now that they can no longer use their units for summer rentals, some landlords may no longer have sufficient funds to meet their mortgages, and/or property taxes, insurance, maintenance/repairs, and/or pay for utilities.
A Global Problem
In a previous interview, David Rousseau, one of the principal organizers behind the development now called Rainbow Ridge, explained:
“Our little community is caught up in a global real estate market. An economy that comes from outside; that is not really shared on the inside. We live very modestly here. We also have a situation where the available land base is very limited. The lot sizes are very large; there are no municipal services; and we live in recreational paradise. The market for land here bares no relationship to the standard of living here.”
“What that means is there are a lot of people who have chosen to live here: or have grown up here; [or were] born here – maybe many generations; maybe dozens of generations here for First Nations people – who can not really afford to have a secure home here. … They can’t afford to get into the real estate market with any typical level of local income. It is just too expensive.”
- Household that have lost 25% or more of monthly income are also eligible for BC Temporary Rental Supplement. 1-877-757-2577
- The RBT-1 form https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/housing-and-tenancy/residential-tenancies/forms/rtb1_chrome.pdf
- The Residential tenancy branch number is 800-665-8779