Information is a powerful tool

Authority BC Housing, Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Responsible for Housing

Monique and her son had been living in a subsidized apartment managed by a housing society for more than 13 years. Each year she had to complete an Application for Rent Subsidy declaring her total household income and assets. This information was used to determine her eligibility and the amount for housing subsidy. The application included a declaration that if Monique was found to be ineligible for the rent subsidy, she would immediately have to pay the full amount of rent.

Monique did not provide verification of her and her now adult son’s income information to support her application for subsidy. After making efforts to obtain the information, the housing society withdrew her subsidy and her rent increased to the market rate, a fivefold increase. When Monique did not pay the increased rent, the housing society served her with a ten day Notice to End Tenancy for non-payment of rent.

Both Monique and the landlord filed applications with the Residential Tenancy Branch. Monique filed a notice to dispute the rent increase with the Residential Tenancy Branch and the housing society filed an application for possession of the premises for non-payment of rent. The Branch adjudicator found she had no jurisdiction to review the disputed rent increase, and granted the housing society an Order of Possession and a monetary order for unpaid rent. Monique, her son and their possessions were removed from the apartment by a bailiff.

Monique’s agent contacted us because there appeared to be no process for Monique to appeal the decision to discontinue her housing subsidy, the loss of which led to her eviction.

In October 2006 the Residential Tenancy Act was amended to include public housing bodies and to require public housing bodies to give two months’ notice to end a tenancy if the tenant ceased to meet eligibility requirements for a housing subsidy and the subsidy is provided for in the tenancy agreement. The amendment enables a tenant to dispute a decision about subsidy eligibility but it did not assist Monique because her tenancy agreement predated the change to the Act. The Branch could review the notice to end tenancy for failure to pay rent. However, that process did not resolve Monique’s dispute about the loss of her housing subsidy.

Improved processes only assist individuals if all those involved in rental situations are aware of how the amendments affect landlord and tenant relationships. We were not confident that housing providers and tenants were aware of the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act. BC Housing’s website and the Tenant Handbook did not include any information about the changes. There was no evidence of widespread distribution of the amendments and how these changes might affect those who resided in subsidized housing. We raised the issue with BC Housing who advised that it had a role to audit housing providers to confirm the correct level of subsid but not to review a dispute about eligibility for the subsidy. We consulted with BC Housing regarding the information provided to housing providers about the loss of subsidy leading to eviction. BC Housing was agreeable to providing more comprehensive information on its website as well as training to housing providers on the relevant changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

As a result, information is now more readily available to housing providers and for people who live in subsidized housing. The Rent Calculation Guide and the Resident Management Guide for housing providers on BC Housing’s website now include information on the Residential Tenancy Act and what the housing provider should do when it determines that a resident is no longer eligible for the housing subsidy. BC Housing also agreed to provide training to housing providers on the relevant changes to the Residential Tenancy Act and to its property portfolio assistants, non-profit society and coop housing providers and non-profit property managers throughout British Columbia. Furthermore, each year, BC Housing co-presents with the Residential Tenancy Branch at BC Non-Profit Housing Association annual conferences and now uses the opportunity to educate its members about subsidized housing.

Category Housing and Property
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2012
Location The Lower Mainland