Disputes between landlords and tenants will be more expensive to resolve starting Friday.
The province has quietly raised Residential Tenancy Branch fees.
For tenants and landlords, the fee to apply for dispute resolution doubles from $50 to $100. The fee for a review hearing also jumped from $25 to $50.
“We need to be counting on government to find more ways of making all aspects of housing more affordable and this does the opposite,” said Alvin Singh, chair of Vancouver’s Renters Advisory Committee.
Singh said the current dispute process is already hard to access and the decision to double fees for renters looking to settle a dispute with their landlord isn’t going to make it easier.
“A lot of tenants don’t want to take their landlord to a dispute resolution process because they’re afraid that they’ll be kicked out of the place that they have to live and they won’t be able to find another place. So already, it’s so difficult for tenants to access this system and right now with this additional financial barrier, it’s going to make it almost impossible.”
If you didn’t know about this fee hike, you aren’t alone. According to an order in council, it was all approved very quietly on Dec. 17.
No one from the Residential Tenancy Branch was available for an interview but, in a statement, they said they received more than 22,000 requests for dispute resolutions last year. The increase in fees means the branch will be able to hire more staff and develop new technology to clear their ever-growing backlog.
“It’s a million-dollar tax grab from tenants and landlords and that’s really what it is. It has nothing to do with improving the services here,” said David Eby, NDP MLA Vancouver Point Grey
What’s more, critics say government isn’t addressing the larger problem: B.C.’s housing shortage.
“If there was more rental housing, there’d be fewer disputes. And so, all these things are connected, and the government isn’t looking at them as connected,” Eby said.
Low-income tenants can still apply to have their fees waived. According to the Residential Tenancy Branch website, around 20 per cent of all applicants will not pay any application fee at all.
Arbitrators can also rule that a losing party must pay back the winning party for the cost of the filing fee.
– With files from Nadia Stewart
© 2016 Shaw Media