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Nov 10, 2023

TIABC Voice of Tourism Newsletter – November 10, 2023



Last summer I was walking my son’s dog near his home in Kelowna when I stumbled upon a massive garage sale coordinated by six university students who had recently moved into a rental house. Seems the property’s former tenants not only bolted, but they left all of their junk behind for the landlord and new renters to dispose of.

The students told me that the previous occupants were a nightmare and hadn’t paid rent in months…likely why they vanished overnight. Unfortunately, the landlord was left with lost income, property damage, and extensive cleanup of the garbage and stuff the former tenants chose not to take.

I’ve heard similar stories many times from friends who own rental properties. Evicting tenants for good reason is nearly impossible given provincial regulations that tend to favour renters as opposed to landlords even if the occupants are causing problems or are months behind in rent payments. 

Dealing with rogue tenants was a specific topic at the BC Lodging & Campgrounds (BCLCA) Ideas Forum this week in Parksville where campground and RV park operators spoke of their challenges with guests who breach their 180 day limit for occupancy, refuse to leave when asked, and instead file a complaint with the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) claiming that because they’ve been on the site for six months or more, they are now considered permanent residents and not visitors…which creates a whole new set of problems for operators.

Many campgrounds operators lamented about having tenants well past their six-month allowance which shifts the regulatory landscape from the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act to the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) when it comes to rights of the operator versus occupant. In other words, it becomes increasingly more difficult to force the tenant to leave even if they are blatantly breaching local bylaws or campground rules. As I alluded to earlier, the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) tends to side with renters in the majority of disputes, which makes operators even more wary of who they offer sites to for an extended stay of up to half a year.

At the forum, lawyer Lisa Mackie provided excellent advice on what RV Park owners need to do vis-a-vis contracts or agreements with campers at the onset of their term to avoid these kinds of disputes.

Similarly, now that the new short-term rental (STR) legislation has passed, I am increasingly hearing from property owners all over the province that are deeply concerned about housing permanent tenants instead of transient visitors because of situations like the one I described earlier with the Kelowna university students. By all accounts, the owners claim the Residential Tenancy Act actually dissuades them from entering into long-term agreements for fear of conflicts with bad tenants or falling offside with the RTA.

To be fair, the majority of renters are good, law-abiding citizens that pay their lease on time, maintain their unit, and have good relationships with their neighbours and landlord. But I’ve heard enough horror stories recently and over the years to compel me to further explore whether TIABC needs to advocate for more balance between the rights of property owners versus tenants, especially given that new short-term rental rules will force some landlords to revert to long-term rentals or leave their units vacant. In other words, we may need to address related issues in order for the new STR legislation to work as intended.

To be sure, many advocates on both sides (i.e. landlords & tenants) have been deeply entrenched in this issue for years but there may be support that TIABC can offer on behalf of the tourism sector given the new STR rules. If you have recommendations on what policy or regulation changes need to be considered in the context of the RTA, feel free to share them with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Aside from the six cars parked on the front lawn, the student house in Kelowna looks decidedly cleaner these days. Admittedly I helped them dispose of some junk by buying a couple of old wooden paddles and tennis rackets that I use as décor in my den. At the very least, the tenants and landlord appear to be content for the foreseeable future with no need for more disposal bins or another garage sale…at least not before the school year ends.

Walt Judas


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