Housing is a basic need, and worrying about your ability to keep housing may be particularly tough right now. Many people have lost their job or may lose their job as a result of COVID-19 and worry about paying rent—just as we’re all told to stay home and protect ourselves. There are new programs to help renters as well as changes to tenancy laws to make sure everyone can stay home and stay safe until the state of emergency is over.
We’ve summarized new programs and changes below. For the most accurate up-to-date information from the BC government, see www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/covid-19-support.
It’s important that all tenants and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities at the best of times. As the COVID-19 situations changes over time, it’s particularly important to keep up with changes to BC tenancy laws. Visit the Residential Tenancy Branch for information about tenancies during COVID-19 and contact the Residential Tenancy Branch if you have a question about your own situation.
Here are new programs and changes that affect BC renters:
Tenants who are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 can receive $500 a month from the BC government. This rent supplement is paid directly to your landlord. The BC-Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS) Program is administered by BC Housing—visit www.bchousing.org/COVID-19 for updates and more information about the program. Applications may not be open until mid-April. If you cannot pay rent for April, you cannot be evicted for the duration of the state of emergency except in extreme situations.
Except in extreme situations like a threat to safety, landlords in BC cannot evict tenants until the state of emergency is over. This means:
- You cannot receive an eviction notice after March 30, 2020 if you can’t pay rent
- If you’ve already received an eviction order from the Residential Tenancy Branch, you don’t have to leave your home
If you have questions about your own situation, it’s best to talk to the Residential Tenancy Act for clarification. You can find their contact information at www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies.
No rent increases
Rent is frozen during the state of emergency. Your landlord cannot start charging an annual rent increase at this time.
Your landlord can restrict access to common areas
Landlords can restrict or shut down access to common areas like gyms and party rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Your landlord can’t enter your home without your consent
Your landlord can’t enter your home without your consent unless there is an emergency. This measure helps protect people from the spread of COVID-19 and protect people who are self-isolating. Your landlord cannot give you the usual 24 hours’ notice to show your unit to someone else or to perform non-essential maintenance, for example. They must ask if they can enter your home and you are allowed to say no.
You and your landlord have different ways to communicate
You and your landlord can’t give each other documents in person. You can now use email to serve notices.
Many of these new rules and supports have only just come into effect and it may take some time to get all of the details. Be patient and check official sources like the Government of BC or the Residential Tenancy Branch for updates.
For more help and information
- Visit the Residential Tenancy Branch for information about tenancies during COVID-19 and more on contacting the Residential Tenancy Board if you have questions or concerns about your own tenancy.
- Visit the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) for general information about renting in BC. You can call the Tenant Infoline at 604-255-0546 or 1-800-665-1185 if you have questions about your tenancy.
- Visit the Vancouver Tenants Union for a renter’s toolkit, a form letter if you can’t pay rent as a result of COVID-19, and information about paying rent and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- MLA Bowinn Ma compiles regular, easy-to-read updates on provincial and federal supports for British Columbians on her website.
If you need to talk to someone or feel overwhelmed
- You can access free phone-based short-term support with a counselling intern through Moving Forward Family Services. Learn more at mffs.ca
- Talk with a volunteer and learn about local support services through the Mental Health Support Line at 310-6789 (no area code)
- Chat online with a Crisis Center volunteer at www.crisiscentrechat.ca (daily between noon and 1:00am)
- For older adults: Call the Seniors Distress Line at 604-872-1234
- For youth and young adults: Chat online with a volunteer at www.YouthinBC.com (daily between noon and 1:00am)