Updated 29 April 2023
(The latest news about Westea’s lawsuit against those who declined its demand to pay its full-indemnity litigation expenses has moved to this site’s page titled Disputing WS’s legal billings. ‘Opens new tab.)
The Provincial government has heard lessees after eight years of lobbying; the following email was sent out on 26 April 2023.
To all B.C. long-term residential lessees for whom we have an email address:
The need for provincial regulation of leasehold properties is being pondered by Ministry of Housing staff after several MLAs met early in 2023 with Minister Ravi Kahlon and his deputy. No timeline has been set for staff to recommend how to proceed, so lessees should continue to petition their MLAs. Word of the referral to Housing staff came verbally from MLAs Harry Bains and Spencer Chandra-Herbert, and this week in writing from Victoria MLA Grace Lore.
“Since we’ve last spoken,” Ms. Lore wrote on April 24, “my fellow MLAs with residential leases in our community and I have met with our new Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon, and his Deputy Minister, to raise the concerns that have been expressed. The Ministry of Housing is exploring options and recognize(s) this is significant for housing affordability and security. I will continue advocating (for) and sharing the experiences and the vulnerability of lessees in the community and I will also keep you updated.”
MLA Lore said that she and her colleagues had acted, “…due to the advocacy of lessees, including you and others from Orchard House, Sun Creek in Surrey, and others across the province.” This comment shows that lessee emails, letters and face-to-face requests for regulation work; those lessees who have never contacted their MLA or the Minister should do so now, and plan to do so again in the fall, if the Minister of Housing has not announced action based on his staff’s recommendation.
Sadly, lessees currently facing enormous bills, such as Sun Creek Estates in Surrey, will not avoid them through provincial regulation, although it could impose a requirement for more time to pay, perhaps 10 years, rather than the two offered by landlords. Previous enormous bills with short timelines put lessees out of their homes at Victoria’s Orchard House tower and Richmond’s Blue Haven and Crestwynd leaseholds. Expensive work that will be unaffordable for some or even many lessees is currently pending at leasehold buildings in Vancouver’s West End; we need provincial action soon, not in five years.
Ministry staff have been alerted that long-term residential lessees need and deserve:
* More time to pay capital costs to refurbish aging structures.
* Disclosure about how our money is spent, as we don’t even receive an annual budget. Landlords claim spending is audited, but ‘little good it does to know that $453,771 of lessee money went to “legal” costs (Orchard House, 2018) and direct refusal by the landlord to disclose details.
* A limit on annual increases in suite fees, including a prohibition on law offices largely administering leasehold properties at $300 or $500 per hour, previously done in-house at a reasonable cost.
* The right not to be billed the landlord’s unlimited costs to oppose any lessee in a legal action, no matter how legitimate an issue the lessee(s) might have.
* Alternative dispute resolution to B.C. Supreme Court-level action.
* The right to be represented by an in-house association of lessees, which we are free to create, but which lessors are free to ignore. (Lessees in all buildings should create such an organization, even if not under the Societies Act for now, so we can tell Housing staff that we’re ready to receive our landlords’ disclosures and to otherwise represent ourselves; find guidance at https://orchardhouseleaseholder.ca/association-of-orchard-house-lessees/ )
* The right to contact information for our neighbours, as we cannot even find lessees who sublet their suite, while landlords at our expense write all lessee tenants, and have pitted lessees against each other.
Please tell your MLA and/or Housing Minister Kahlon which of the above issues have been a problem for you, and ask that it be addressed. Regulation under new legislation cannot solve all leasehold problems, and we are reasonable in our expectations, but certainly we deserve the tenant protections and disclosures listed above. It’s encouraging to know that staff are finally pondering what to recommend to those we elected; let’s not fall out of sight and out of mind.
Gerald Rotering, Publicist, Association of Orchard House Lessees