B.C. government introduces bill to allow tenants fleeing family violence to end leases early

CLAS has long advocated for measures to reduce barriers in our tenancy laws for those who are fleeing family violence. This week the B.C. government introduced a bill into the provincial legislature that would, if passed, allow tenants fleeing family violence to end fixed-term tenancies early. 

Currently, tenants can’t end a lease early without a financial penalty, unless their landlord agrees. If passed, tenants will be able to take advantage of this provision by giving their landlord one month’s written notice, accompanied by written third-party verification. Eligible third-party verifiers will be professionals who have expertise in assessing risk and safety related to family violence or the need for long-term care.

Although this has been introduced in the Legislature, if passed, these changes will not be in effect for some time, as the Residential Tenancy Branch will need to complete their work on the regulations and implementation of the changes. CLAS and other stakeholders will work with Branch in the months ahead on the development of the accompanying regulations.

Groups in BC such as West Coast LEAF and Battered Women's Support Services have done significant work on this issue. CLAS was part of a coalition of organizations that in 2013 released a report BC’s Residential Tenancy System: 13 Recommendations For Positive Change. At the time we recommended that government amend the Residential Tenancy Act to allow victims of domestic violence to end their fixed-term tenancy early, without penalty, on one month’s notice. We also recommended that the province should work with women-serving organizations and the anti-violence sector to determine what evidence of abuse will be required for the purpose of the notice to end tenancy.

See government backgrounder about these changes: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2015MNGD0062-001678
See the text of the bill: https://www.leg.bc.ca/40th4th/1st_read/gov40-1.htm
West Coast LEAF commentary: http://www.westcoastleaf.org/2015/10/08/breakthrough-for-the-tenancy-rights-of-women-facing-family-violence/