Over 10 per cent of renters in B.C. report being evicted.
A new study out of the University of British Columbia finds the amount of evictions that take place in B.C. is far higher than in other provinces by “almost four percentage points.”
“When that number came out… I was very surprised,” said researcher Craig Jones. “I knew that was going to be the key finding of the work that we were doing.”
The Sept. 2021 study is called Understanding Evictions in Canada through the Canadian Housing Survey. It looks at data collected in 2018 from the Community Housing Survey to determine the extent of evictions and to compare them between provinces.
”In that survey, they asked people a lot of really interesting questions that to our knowledge weren’t really being asked,’ Jones said, adding that before the survey, “there really was no way to compare that experience in B.C… to the rest of the country. Now at least we’ve got the beginning of an evidence base in this.”
According to the study, 10.6 per cent of renters in British Columbia reported at the time being evicted within the past five years, “more than any other province or territory whereas less than four per cent of renters were evicted within five years in Manitoba, Québec, and Nunavut.”
“After controlling for other sociodemographic characteristics, being aged 45-54, living in British Columbia and having a shelter cost to income ratio above 50 per cent are risk factors for eviction,” it continued.
The survey also concluded that people who are evicted have lower self-reported levels of health and mental health, as well as lower levels of life satisfaction and increased financial difficulty.
The way evictions work in B.C. is different than in other jurisdictions. Most of the time, landlords have to file a legal request to begin the eviction process. In B.C., the landlord just has to serve a notice to the tenant.
“Because of that, there is a ton of cases where tenants may receive notices and then choose to move out and we wouldn’t know how many those are,” said Robert Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC). “At some point in most other jurisdictions, somebody in a position of power or decision making authority has to look at an eviction and say ‘well this makes sense’ or ‘this doesn’t make sense.’ It meets the legal requirements or it doesn’t. In B.C., our system doesn’t actually require anyone to do that.”
Since many evictions do not get reported in B.C., the information from the survey provides a more accurate eviction rate, which could inform future policy.
One such route could be to change how landlords can evict tenants for “landlord’s own use,” which are when the landlord wants to use the property themselves. A recent change to “renoviction” rules could be an inspiration, Patterson says.
“The change that was made this summer is now that if a landlord wants to do that… They have to be the ones who pay the filing fee and begin the legal process and puts their evidence on the table first so the tenants can see what is actually going on,” he said. “One of the ways we can tell it’s been successful is that we can see a massive uptick in clearly bad faith evictions of other kinds, especially the two month notice for landlord use, where they say they’re moving in.”
Not all evictions are in bad faith, but Patterson says that “requiring landlords… to begin the process with the Rental Tenancy Board, to file and provide their evidence first would be incredibly helpful in cutting down those bad faith evictions.”
Some policy changes have already taken place since this data was collected. However, the pandemic, which started after the 2018 Community Housing Survey, has also had an effect.
“We’ve seen a 20-25 per cent increase in people contacting TRAC for all sorts of reasons since the beginning of the pandemic. The number one issue has always remained evictions,” Patterson said. “It also just caused more stress on all the parties, which led to more conflict, tension and therefore evictions. There’s been a huge demand.”
Another Canadian Housing Survey was conducted earlier this year, and Jones and his team plan to do a similar study of the data when it is available.
“As far as I know, we didn’t have any way of estimating what renter eviction rates are across the country,” Jones said. “We didn’t know how the different provinces and territories compared to each other. The fact that B.C. has a pretty high eviction rate compared to the other provinces, and that difference is statistically significant.”
“I really hope this study brings more attention to how this process works and how many people are getting evicted,” Patterson said. “It’s pretty crazy.”
The full study is available online.