Report finds Residential Tenancy Branch drastically underfunded 0
Report from a law firm says the Residential Tenancy Branch needs to use its powers more frequently to enforce rental laws. (24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch is so drastically underfunded that only an average of $405 is allotted for each case the branch hears, according to a report by a Vancouver non-profit law firm.
That number, according to Community Legal Assistance Society lawyer and report author Jess Hadley, is about 10 times less than what its counterpart, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal, receives for each case heard.
The report said that from 2011 to 2012 the RTB heard 19,768 cases. Many involve appellants from marginalized communities, such as residents of the Downtown Eastside, who want to file grievances for wrongful evictions or lack of maintenance in their buildings.
DTES Neighbourhood Council board member Anthony Guitar said on Tuesday disputes are always heard through the phone instead of a face-to-face meeting with an adjudicator. He agreed with the report that more RTB funding is needed, and added cases should also be processed faster than the years some files take to resolve.
“A lot of us down here that do complain about our housing, it goes from one ear to the other and most of the time it doesn’t go any further,” he said.
Hadley said the RTB also has a broad array of powers to investigate breaches of the Residential Tenancy Act, and to penalize those who are in violation. And yet, she said, there’s only been one case where a landlord was penalized, and the RTB has never initiated its own investigations.
ACORN B.C. housing advocate Sue Collard, the main proponent in B.C.’s only RTB penalty — $115,000 against a Surrey landlord — said via e-mail it took three years to resolve her maintenance dispute.
“Without the ability to inspect and properly enforce the RTA, the current legislation currently limps along, leaving many tenants inadequately protected and living in conditions which can approach dangerous,” she said.
“Any system that has no way of ensuring tenant safety is a system in need of a boost.”