A new bylaw laying out the minimum standards of maintenance for rental property landlords came into effect in Victoria on Jan. 31.
The Rental Property Standards of Maintenance (RPSOM) bylaw works in conjunction with the BC Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) to ensure that rental properties are kept in safe, liveable conditions for renters. For instance, it dictates that bathroom floors must be smooth, moisture-resistant surfaces, that there must be lighting in each room and common area, and that exterior doors and windows must be weather-tight and capable of being locked.
It’s a move housing justice advocates have been calling for since 1998, but now they fear it may not be enough.
In a statement Feb. 1, Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) and Victoria Tenant Action Group (VTAG) said while the new bylaw establishes maintenance standards, it doesn’t provide inspection, mediation or enforcement.
“Without the ability to inspect or issue fines for non-compliance this bylaw will again let the worst of the worst landlords off the hook,” Douglas King, executive director of TAPS, said.
Alongside the bylaw, the city has hired a tenant assistance planner who can provide information, support and resources to tenants. However, the planner cannot provide representation for tenants or directly assist in collecting evidence of non-compliance with bylaw standards. Landlord-tenant disputes still must be referred to the provincial level.
The city pointed out that the province recently invested $6.8 million in improving the Residential Tenancy Branch, including improving the accessibility of the provincial website for worried renters, increasing the number of dispute resolution staff and reducing phone wait times to reach an information officer. The investment has also created a new online dispute resolution portal and established a compliance and enforcement unit to investigate repeated or serious non-compliance.
TAPS and VTAG don’t think it will be enough. The two organizations are calling on the city to dedicate its own staff and resources to the inspection of units and support of tenants in dispute resolution; protect tenants at risk of eviction and renoviction; and develop a process for complaints and inspection of units that don’t fall under RTA legislation such as shelters, transitional housing and long-stay motels.
The city will be evaluating the rollout of the new bylaw over the next 18 months. A summary can be found at victoria.ca. VTAG will be independantly collecting feedback at victoriatenants.com.