Lawson Lundell wins at BC Court of Appeal, quashing bylaw which imposed ‘double regulation’ on rent control


On February 2, 2024, the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the City of Vancouver’s (“the City”) petition against a previous Supreme Court of BC decision that limited the City’s ability to use a business licensing bylaw to impose a second layer of legislation on businesses already regulated by the provincial or federal government.

In 2021, the City passed bylaws that imposed rent control on ‘Single Residence Accommodation’ properties, preventing landlords from increasing rent during or between tenancies. These bylaws were passed under its general business licensing power on the basis that there was no conflict with the provincial legislative scheme (the Residential Tenancy Act). This justification was rejected by the Supreme Court of BC and the bylaws were quashed in 2022 after our lawyers argued that the bylaws were ultra vires, beyond the limit of the City’s jurisdiction under the business licensing bylaw and that a provision of the Vancouver Charter prohibited business licencing over businesses that were already subject to regulation.

The City’s appeal sought to argue a new basis for the reasonableness of the original decision. Lawson Lundell lawyers, Craig Ferris, KC, FCIArb. and Thomas Boyd successfully defended the City of Vancouver’s appeal as the BC Court of Appeal unanimously agreed with the position our lawyers presented, holding that a person could not be “regulated twice” in relation to the same subject matter through business licensing.  This case now forms part of a trilogy of recent BC Court of Appeal cases (with Canadian Plastic Bag Association v. Victoria (City), 2019 BCCA 254 and 1193652 B.C. Ltd. v. New Westminster (City), 2021 BCCA 176) in which the court addressed the limitations on municipal powers that overlap with provincial legislative schemes.  The BC Court of Appeal accepted our lawyers’ submissions that a ‘pith and substance’ analysis was the appropriate analytic mechanism.

This significant decision by the BC Court of Appeal ensures more than just an appropriate distribution of power amongst different levels of government in BC when it comes to issues related to business licensing and rent/vacancy control. The decision ensures that business bylaws cannot be used to impose multiple layers of regulation on businesses that would ultimately affect how they operate and run in our market economy.  It protects the rights of landlords operating in the City of Vancouver from municipal attempts to impose further rent restrictions on them, additional to the Residential Tenancy Act.

Lawson Lundell’s team included Craig Ferris, KC, FCIArb. and Thomas Boyd, with the support of  Lisa Peters, KC, Chad Travis, and Catherine Whitehead.

Read the full decision here: Vancouver (City) v. Pender Lodge Holdings Ltd., 2024 BCCA 37

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