The B.C. government says it is working to reduce wait times on disputes between landlords and tenants by doubling the capacity of the unit responsible for resolving rental disagreements.
As it stands, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said British Columbians are sometimes waiting half a year to have issues of rent payment, unsafe living circumstances or renoviction addressed. Kahlon said the Residential Tenancy Branch has seen about a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications for help since the start of the pandemic.
On Wednesday (Dec. 28), he announced up to $15.6 million over the next three years to expand the branch and its compliance and enforcement unit. Kahlon said the fresh funds will add up to 50 new full-time employees, on top of the 118 already working there. Five of the new hires will be dedicated to the compliance and enforcement unit, doubling its staff.
And they’ll have their work cut out for them. As of Wednesday morning, the housing ministry said the Residential Tenancy Branch had 92 standard and 12 emergency applications to process. Already on its plate are about 7,700 disputes scheduled for hearings.
None of them are moving fast enough. The ministry said the emergency applications (100) are taking close to three weeks to get to a hearing, the standard ones (4,500) are taking about 16 weeks, and the monetary claims (3,200) are taking 33 weeks.
Making a dent in the process is a welcome change for tenant and landlord advocates alike.
Robert Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, said in a news release he hopes the move means tenants have their concerns addressed sooner and arbitrators have more time to make “well-reasoned decisions.”
David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, also expressed satisfaction with the change.
“Not only will this new investment alleviate financial concerns for landlords by allowing them to solve rental disputes faster, but it will also ensure that their unit is available to provide housing to people in B.C. at a time when it’s needed most.”
Kahlon said they hope to have all the new staff on board within the next year, but admitted that hiring staff right now can be challenging.