B.C.'s Rental Housing Task Force has proposed changes to how annual rent increases are calculated in the province that could prevent some tenants from having to pay a 4.5 per cent hike next year.
Landlords are currently allowed to raise rents by two per cent plus the cost of inflation, a formula that has left renters facing their biggest rent hike since 2004.
The task force's proposal would instead make the annual increase tied to inflation only, scrapping the automatic two per cent hike from the calculation to ease the pressure on renters. If adopted quickly, that would allow for a 2.5 per cent increase in 2019 instead of 4.5 per cent.
NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the chair of the task force, said the province has heard the outcry from renters who find the current system, which was implemented by the previous BC Liberal government, to be unsustainable.
"It's a formula which we've been told by renters has been making life increasingly unaffordable for them," Chandra Herbert said. "Their wages have not kept pace."
But there will be options for landlords who are struggling as well. The task force has recommended that B.C. follow in the footsteps of Manitoba and Ontario by allowing landlords to apply for a larger hike if they can demonstrate they've been paying to maintain their properties.
Chandra Herbert said most renters understand that costs go up, but that many have been paying the maximum hike for years while the conditions of the properties where they're living deteriorate.
"They were paying maximum increases for properties that weren't being maintained," he said.
But under the proposed changes, "if you're not doing any work or maintaining your property, you're not going to be getting the maximum rent increase," the chair added.
Though the task force isn't expected to release its full report on improving landlord and tenancy laws until November, Chandra Herbert said they felt compelled to issue preliminary recommendations so there's time to potentially make changes before the 2019 rent hike takes effect.
"If they act this week, for example, the 4.5 rent increase that was announced … could be changed," he said.
A decision is expected to be made on the recommendations before Oct. 1, according to the government.