For immediate release
May 29, 2020
VICTORIA, B.C. - The Residential Tenancy Amendment Act, a private member’s bill introduced by the B.C. Green Party and passed with all party support in 2019, will come into force tomorrow, May 30th, 2020.
The bill added a provision to the existing act to ensure the ability to break one’s fixed term lease for safety reasons was not limited to survivors of domestic violence, but also extended to people victimized by a roommate or neighbour, for example.
"A safe home is essential to the wellbeing of survivors of violence - nobody should have to live in close proximity to their perpetrator. The B.C. Green caucus is proud to have advanced such an important bill in collaboration with stakeholders, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and all members of the legislature.
“These changes are particularly timely as the pandemic has increased the risk of household violence and limited the social and financial supports available to people needing to leave an unsafe situation," said B.C. Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
Under this legislation, if remaining in one’s rental home puts the renter or their dependents at risk of violence they are able to break their fixed term lease and seek safety without financial penalty. Third party verification can be provided from a range of judicial, medical, and victim services professionals, as detailed in regulation.
“As I mentioned during the Second Reading debates, this bill has particular personal importance to me. In my early 20s I found a place to rent in Victoria with a roommate. A month into a shared living arrangement, I woke up to find him standing in my room - I was no longer safe in that space, and had to leave with no notice,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley. “I was fortunate enough to have family who could provide financial assistance so that I could immediately find a new place to live. Many are not as fortunate.
“This bill supports survivors and I celebrate its unanimous passage as another example of the B.C. legislature working in service of all British Columbians.”
The bill was tabled by MLA Weaver and amended the Residential Tenancy Act to add “household violence” to the existing family violence and long term care provisions, which were added in 2015 by the B.C. Liberals.
Regulations specify which expert professionals and practitioners are authorized to provide third-party confirmation for victims who need to end their fixed term lease: police, listed medical practitioners, counsellors, First Nations support workers, victims support workers, etc.
Having regulations that extend verification powers beyond law enforcement is vital as not all survivors will be able or willing to involve police. In cases of domestic violence, risk of injury or death can increase if a violent partner learns their spouse has contacted police or is planning on leaving.
The bill is intended to protect anyone who lives in the household whose safety, security, or physical wellbeing has been adversely affected by violence associated with the rental home, including but not limited to: physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, threats of physical or sexual abuse, or exposing a child directly or indirectly to violence.
There are approximately 60,000 incidents of sexual and domestic violence in British Columbia each year, according to the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia.
Media contact JoJo Beattie Acting Press Secretary B.C. Green Caucus +1 250-882-6187 | firstname.lastname@example.org