B.C. seniors advocate seeks tenancy protection for residents of retirement homes

  • Canadian Press

British Columbia's Seniors Advocate is calling for the enforcement of tenancy laws to protect residents of retirement homes who he says are facing illegal rent increases and evictions. British Columbia's provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

VICTORIA -- British Columbia's seniors advocate is calling for the enforcement of tenancy laws to protect residents of retirement homes who he says face illegal rent increases and evictions.

Dan Levitt says in a new report that some retirement homes claim the Residential Tenancy Act does not apply to their residents, or to mandatory fees for services including meals and housekeeping.

Levitt says many landlords are ignoring the legislation at their facilities, leaving seniors facing annual cost increases of up to 24 per cent.

He says "the law is very clear" that anything a resident must pay to their landlord is part of their tenancy, including the cost of mandatory meals, and is therefore subject to the limits on annual allowable rent increases.

If a landlord raises fees beyond those amounts, he says residents must be able to opt out of the fees.

But Levitt says that when some B.C. seniors tried to opt out of housekeeping or mandatory meals, they were given eviction notices.

"When seniors try to challenge their landlord, they are often provided with conflicting and incorrect information and left to navigate the arduous, time-consuming and costly process of obtaining a hearing with an arbitrator where landlords are usually represented by legal counsel," Levitt said in a statement.

"This means that seniors are currently at risk and living without the protections that most renters in the province already enjoy. We must act now to improve the power imbalance in the landlord/tenant relationship in independent living."

Levitt is recommending that the Housing and Health ministries ensure the Residential Tenancy Branch enforces the act in retirement homes and addresses the "intimidation and vulnerability" seniors feel when they try to negotiate with their landlords.

This report by was first published July 4, 2024.