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Opinion: Dirty Burnaby landlord tries hiking 89-year-old’s rent during freeze

B.C. has a freeze on rent increases right now, but one landlord isn't listening
B.C. has a freeze on rent increases right now. (via Dan Toulgoet)

Readers have asked me for a lot of help over the years.

I’ve received requests for information on choosing a good lawyer, doctor, mechanic and more.

Why me? I don’t know. I'm as helpless as the next person, but I try to help as much as I can. The latest was this week when a sweet senior citizen called me out of desperation because his landlord was trying to hike his rent.

The man didn’t want a story written about him – he just needed some help – and so I’ll call him Joe for this column.

Joe is 89 and rents in Burnaby. He doesn’t have access to the internet and struggles with many tasks.

Joe just wanted to be pointed in the right direction after receiving a notice about a whopping 17% rent increase proposed by his landlord for Jan. 1, 2021.

“I don’t know what to do,” Joe said. “I don’t have anyone to help me and don’t know where to start. I’m feeling desperate.”

What Joe is experiencing surprised me because as far as I know, all rent increases are frozen by the Province of B.C.

“Effective immediately, the Province is extending the freeze on rent increases until July 10, 2021, under the powers of the Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 Related Measures Act,” says a posting on the government website. “This is an interim measure to provide stability and advance notice for renters and landlords while a new cabinet is sworn in. Increases set to happen on Dec. 1, 2020, are cancelled, along with all pending increases through to July.”

Look, I don't know if it's fair to still prevent landlords from raising rents, but since there is a freeze, landlords must comply.

So that’s one issue. I let Joe know about the rent freeze and said he should try the library or a seniors advocate to get them to print out the information to show his landlord.

Either the landlord doesn’t know about the extended freeze or they are trying to take advantage of an elderly gent who can’t access the internet.

The other issue is the 17% rent hike. As far as I know, that’s not allowed either even if there wasn’t a freeze right now.

Back in September, B.C. announced the  maximum annual allowable rent increase for 2021 had been set at 1.4%, which is less than half of what it would have been prior to changes made by the province in 2018. Prior to that change, the previous government allowed rent increases to be set at the rate of inflation, plus an additional 2%.

So the landlord, according to Joe, is trying to break two rules right now. It’s actually three if you include the fact the landlord didn’t give Joe three months’ notice of an impending rent increase. Joe was given a few weeks.

I passed along some numbers for Joe, including the residential tenancy branch office.

Hopefully he gets more advice on how to stop this.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.