On May 27, 2020, the Premier of British Columbia unsurprisingly announced the extension of the State of Emergency for another two weeks through June 9th (note: the State of Emergency was again extended June 10th through June 23rd). However, what was surprising was that despite this being the longest period under the State of Emergency in BC’s history, the Premier indicated that he “doesn’t see any end in sight.” While the State of Emergency is in effect, Ministerial Order M089, which suspended rights of landlords to serve most notices to end tenancy, and notices of rent increases, remains in force.
For owners and managers of rental housing this was a very troubling statement from the Premier, for as long as Ministerial Order M089 remains in force, unlike other industries, our sector is unable to operate our businesses with any degree of normalcy and without proper access to justice.
The notion that the State of Emergency, and the effect of Ministerial Order M089, could be extended indefinitely is an unnerving prospect for our sector. It is a particularly daunting prospect for the many small landlords who provide critically important homes for BC families and disproportionately represent our sector. The harsh reality is that the government has imposed untenable and unacceptable economic risks on our sector by legislating losses to be carried by rental housing providers.
We are deeply concerned that, as time goes on with no end in sight to the State of Emergency, the original purpose of Ministerial Order M089 has been distorted, and the continued extension of its effect has now become an unreasonable exercise of the executive authority of the Province. We believe that emergency orders under the Emergency Program Act were intended to give the executive branch of our government the power to suspend laws created by our Legislature temporarily on a short-term basis to deal with immediate and catastrophic events. They are not intended to impose lasting socioeconomic changes by fundamentally rewriting laws created by the Legislature, or to force private individuals to subsidize the cost of living of other private individuals indefinitely.
Everything else is open, but the government is extending the State of Emergency, and in turn, Ministerial Order M089, in a manner that continues to cause hardship to many rental housing providers. Private grocery stores are not being asked to provide food free of charge or at a subsidy; similarly, landlords should not be forced to provide housing free of charge. There has been no economic restriction placed upon any banks, plumbers, insurance companies, electricity bills, roof repair, or waste removal company. Yet, Landlords are expected to maintain their properties, but no thought has been given to how these bills will be paid while rent remains unpaid, and all of this being done through a law that was not created by our Legislature.
Given that landlords cannot evict for non-payment of rent we need a funding mechanism in place now to help landlords make up for this lost revenue. Without such a mechanism many landlords will go insolvent. To be clear, we do not want to evict anyone during this pandemic, however the solutions put forth by the B.C. government are out of balance.
We have worked constructively with our tenants and the government since the beginning of this crisis, but it is the role of government to bear this housing burden, not private landlords who simply do not have the financial capacity to do so. We need the B.C. government to come forward with fair and balanced solutions. Ministerial Order M089 must end now for rental housing providers.