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Opinion: ‘My Burnaby landlord forces me to do all the chores. Now he’s hiking the rent’

How far is too far for making tenants work around the house?
Grass lawn mowing
Gardener in the park on a lawn cutting tractor machine

Chad got a notification a while back that his Burnaby landlord would be hiking the rent now that a freeze on rent increases was being lifted.

Normally, Chad would be OK with this because he expects an annual increase, but the notice actually felt like a betrayal.

That’s because of all the work Chad puts in at the North Burnaby house he rents a basement suite in.

Chad wrote me with this subject line: “My Burnaby landlord forces me to do all the chores. Now he’s hiking the rent.”

Chad lives downstairs, a woman in her 30s lives in another unit in the basement and a middle-aged couple lives upstairs. The landlord lives off site and rents out several houses, raking in pretty big profits.

There are three other able-bodied people living in the house and a landlord, but for some reason he has been singled out to do a “list of chores” each week that range from cutting the grass, pulling weeds, putting out and bringing in garbage bins and more – including shovelling the snow multiple times recently.

He’s even had to do maintenance items like painting and repairs for things that he had nothing to do with.

“He actually posts a weekly list that’s just for me. Nobody else has to lift a finger for anything all year,” said Chad. “I think a lot of these items should be done by the landlord himself, but at least spread it out to the other tenants. I’ve pushed back on this and then I get threatened with eviction. The landlord told me he’d make up transgressions and take me to the tenancy board to get rid of me if I didn’t comply. I’m not his paid personal employee. And then he says he’s going to jack up the rent. Well, maybe recognize all of the free labour he’s getting.”

Chad said he’s afraid to just say no way because he has had great difficulty finding accommodation and doesn’t want to go through finding a place again. The landlord doesn’t have anything in writing setting out all of these chores and Chad thinks he’d have a case with the Residential Tenancy Branch, but hasn’t made a decision about rocking the boat.

“The rent hike is what really did it,” Chad said. “It just feels like a slap in the face to get ordered around like that and then get told I have to pay more for the privilege.”

That is a tricky one.

Tenants do have some responsibilities, but this sounds pretty egregious.

Rent Increases.

As of Jan. 1, 2022, B.C. landlords may increase rent by a maximum of 1.5 per cent, based on inflation. 

B.C. landlords may only increase once annually, if they choose to increase rent at all.

In 2021, B.C. banned illegal renovictions (evictions to complete renovations to a property) by requiring landlords to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for pre-approval before ending a tenancy.

  • If a landlord served a tenant with a notice of rent increase that takes effect in 2021, it is null and void and the tenant does not have to pay it.
  • The maximum allowable rent increase is defined by the 12-month average per cent change in the all-items Consumer Price Index for B.C. ending in July the year prior to the calendar year for which a rent increase takes effect.
    • For example, if a rent increase takes effect in 2022, the maximum allowable rent increase is the 12-month average per cent change in the all-items Consumer Price Index for B.C. ending in July 2021. 
  • The 2022 maximum increase for manufactured home park tenancies will be 1.5%, plus a proportional amount for the change in local government levies and regulated utility fees.
  • The rent increase does not include commercial tenancies, non-profit housing tenancies where rent is geared to income, co-operative housing and some assisted-living facilities.
  • With additional reporting by Elana Shepert, Vancouver is Awesome

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.