CLAS defends tenants against extraordinary rent increase

CLAS is representing several tenants of Crest Estates manufactured home park in Nanaimo in a judicial review about whether their landlord is entitled to increase their rent by up to 76%.  Many of the tenants have lived at Crest Estates for over 20 years.  Most of them are over 70 years of age.  And all of them would be seriously disadvantaged by such a significant rent increase.     

The Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act imposes rent controls on established manufactured home parks to ensure balance and fairness between landlords and tenants.  The Act permits landlords to increase rent annually by an amount slightly above inflation.  However, rent increases above the annual allowable amount may only be made with tenant consent or Residential Tenancy Branch approval.  The Branch will only approve an additional rent increase where the circumstances are extraordinary.  

It is widely recognized that there is a serious shortage of affordable housing in BC.  Manufactured home parks are an important source of affordable housing, particularly for seniors.  Manufactured home park tenants typically own their own home, but rent the pad where it sits.  Many low income individuals choose to invest in this form of housing as a means of building equity and gaining access to the security of home ownership.  However, many would be surprised to hear just how insecure this form of housing can be.  

It is often difficult or impossible to move a manufactured home.  It may be physically impossible or prohibitively expensive to move a home that has been constructed on site or been in place for decades.  There may also be nowhere to move the home to; many new parks are unwilling to accept older homes that do not meet modern standards.  In this context, rent controls are particularly important to tenants.  Manufactured home park tenants who can no longer afford their rent face the prospect of losing their home and all they have invested in it.  For many tenants, this represents a catastrophic financial loss.

Crest Estates manufactured home park applied for an additional rent increase last September on the basis that its rents were significantly lower than the rents for similar sites in nearby parks.  The landlord sought to increase all the rents to $400 per month.  In practical terms, this meant a rent increase of $102.69 to $173.02 per month for each affected tenant.

The tenants successfully disputed the application at the Residential Tenancy Branch.  They argued that their rent should not be increased because the lower rents at Crest Estates reflect the lower quality of the park.  For instance, unlike newer parks, their sites are small; too small even to fit a modern home.

Crest Estates has applied to the BC Supreme Court to judicially review the dismissal of its application.  CLAS is representing the tenants on judicial review to protect their affordable housing and the robustness of the rent control provisions.  For many of the tenants with fixed incomes, this case will determine whether they can continue to live in the community where they have lived for decades.