Lawson Lundell Successfully Overturns Vancouver Bylaws on Rent Control Between Tenancies
On August 3, 2022, the B.C. Supreme Court quashed a set of municipal bylaws relating to rent control and business licensing, as set by the City of Vancouver in late 2021, which imposed rent control on numerous properties in Vancouver. The Court ruled that the bylaws were an unreasonable assertion of the City’s jurisdiction and ultra vires (beyond the power) of the City.
On December 8, 2021, the City of Vancouver passed three bylaws that imposed a form of rent control (known as vacancy control) on every property in Vancouver designated as Single Residence Accommodation (popularly known as SROs), preventing the landlords from increasing rent during or between tenancies. The effect of the bylaws was to fix rents in each unit permanently (subject only to inflation-linked rises) at 2021 levels. The City passed the bylaws under its general business licencing power, asserting that since landlords operate businesses, the City could refuse to grant them business licences unless they complied with the vacancy controls.
The central question of the case was whether the City has the legislative authority to prohibit rent increases between tenancies? The petitioners successfully argued that the City’s legislative authority is limited to areas not already regulated by the Province, in this case by the Province’s Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), and so could not impose these restrictions on rent increases. This was achieved despite a recent Court of Appeal decision (1193652 B.C. Ltd. v. New Westminster (City), 2021 BCCA 176) allowing a similar form of municipal bylaw.
This significant case was argued on behalf of the petitioners by Craig Ferris, QC, FCIArb., and Tom Boyd. They were assisted in their preparation by Lisa Peters, QC, Meg Gaily, Chad Travis, Catherine Whitehead, Natasha Sanders, and Mitchell Horkoff.