B.C.’s Supreme Court has upheld New Westminster’s tough new bylaw aimed at discouraging “renovictions” after a legal challenge from a local rental owner.
In a decision made Tuesday and posted online Wednesday, the court rejected the owner’s argument that the city violated the Community Charter by passing landlord-tenant legislation, which is normally under provincial jurisdiction.
The owner argued in its petition that it needed all 21 units of its building to be vacant for at least a year to complete necessary renovations, including replacing the floors, windows, lighting and appliances.
That’s exactly the kind of move the city’s bylaw outlaws. When the bylaw was adopted in February 2019, staff and council pointed out that tenants of 315 units were forced out in recent years.
The bylaw established fines for landlords who evict tenants without notice or without relocating them to other units, or who fail to provide them right of first refusal after renovations are done.
Owners can earn an exemption from the terms of the bylaw if they prove the renovations cannot be done safely unless some or all of the units are vacated.
According to the ruling, the owner, who took possession of the building in May 2019, has not applied for an exemption or explained where the tenants would go if they were evicted.
Chief Justice Hinkson said the bylaw has a “lawful purpose” of protecting renters, and that the owner could not take issue with jurisdiction or the language of the bylaw itself.
“I am very pleased with this decision,” New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté said in a statement.
“Renovictions contribute to housing insecurity in our community and with this decision we will continue to move forward with our efforts to protect tenants from the impacts and risks of renovictions.”
The city said it will continue to enforce the bylaw and other protections outlined in the Rental Housing Revitalization Initiative passed last January.
“We continue to prioritize our efforts to protect tenants from renovictions,” the city’s director of development services Emilie Adin said.
According to the decision, the owner’s July 2019 petition was also addressed to the Ministry of Attorney General, which did not file a response.