Residential rental freeze extended into 2021

Insiders expect rental freeze to continue through all of 2021, but note that the increase had already been capped at just 1.4%

Rental rates have been frozen since March | Photo: Getty Images

Effective November 9, the B.C. government extended the freeze on rent increases until July 10, 2021, under the powers of the Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 Related Measures Act.

Rental market insiders believe the extension will stretch right through 2021, but add that the freeze is “no big deal” because allowable rent increases are already insignificant when compared with rising costs.

During the recent provincial election, a key plank of the NDP platform was that the rental freeze would continue for all of 2021, noted David Hutniak, president of LandlordBC, which represents hundreds of rental property owners.

According to a government release, the freeze is “an interim measure to provide stability and advance notice for renters and landlords while a new cabinet is sworn in. Increases set to happen on December 1, 2020, are cancelled, along with all pending increases through to July.

“We know many renters are still facing income loss and even the slightest increase in rent could be extremely challenging. For that reason, we are extending the freeze on rent increases to provide more security for renters during the pandemic,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“We are all in this together,” Robinson said.

Landlords appear to be in deeper than others, however.

B.C. rents have been frozen since March 18 and renters who have received notice their rent was set to increase “should disregard those notices and continue to pay their current rent amount until July 10, 2021,” the government notice states.

“This decision is very concerning,” Hutniak said in an online statement, “Our sector is on a negative financial trajectory and we need support for rental property owners. While not insensitive to the challenges many renters have faced, the reality is that our sector has also been challenged with significant disruptions, risks and costs as a result of the pandemic. 

“Moreover, in the absence of rent increases to better cover cost inflation like taxes, utilities, insurance, maintenance, etc., our financial challenges will be further exacerbated and threaten our ability to ensure British Columbians have continued access to safe, secure, sustainable rental housing.”

Avison Young principal and multi-family specialist Rob Greer was not surprised by the rental freeze extension, but he noted that the annual rent increase for 2021 had already been capped by the province at 1.4 per cent, which Greer said is "near meaningless" when compared to recent increases in property taxes, hydro costs and soaring insurance premiums for multi-family landlords.