Why B.C. Eviction Data Is Out of Reach

As pandemic-era eviction bans have expired in jurisdictions all around the world, tenants who have been unable to pay rent during a time of crisis are getting evicted en-masse.

The B.C. government allowed evictions to resume back in September 2020, attached to a requirement that landlords must offer tenants a punishing 10-month repayment schedule for their rent debt. VTU members have demanded that the eviction ban remain in place for the duration of the pandemic - allowing people to lose their homes during this time is inhumane and dangerous for public health

In Ontario, organized tenants have been documenting and resisting the “eviction blitz”. Keep Your Rent Toronto launched a self-reporting eviction tracker. The VTU published a similar tool as well (although we chose not to publish a public facing map, in order to protect tenants’ privacy).

More recently though, tenants in Ontario launched another website: EvictionsOntario.ca which more thoroughly tracks the extent of the crisis using data from 3,500 scheduled Landlord Tenant Board hearings in Toronto from Nov. 2, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021.

Some members and journalists have reached out asking whether the VTU could create a similar report and are generally wondering what the evictions data looks like in this province. 

There are some key differences between Ontario and B.C. tenancy law that prevent us from getting a complete picture of eviction data. 

Here’s a breakdown of why we don’t know and can’t really know the scale of the evictions crisis in B.C.:

Ontario B.C.
  • In Ontario, a landlord cannot evict a tenant by legal means without a hearing before the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB) [1]
  • The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) provides legal forms online for landlords to evict tenants. A tenant must pay a $100 filing fee to launch a formal dispute for an eviction at the RTB [2]
  • The policy of requiring hearings for all evictions means that there is a centralized record of most evictions
  • The RTB only has a record of evictions that are formally disputed by tenants. Evictions that are not disputed are not tracked by any agency or NGO
  • The Ontario government publishes publicly searchable data on LTB hearings [3]
  • The B.C. government does not make RTB dispute hearing data publicly searchable. Freedom of Information requests are necessary to access internal reports [4]

 

The VTU has pushed for the RTB to also legislate automatic hearings for evictions, as Ontario does, in order to ensure tenants who may not know their rights have a chance to dispute, as well as to better track evictions. 

The above information is not meant to suggest that Ontario has better or fairer tenancy laws, or stronger eviction protections as a whole - but when it comes to complete and publicly accessible eviction data, the B.C. government offers basically nothing by comparison.

This is why it’s hard to believe Minister David Eby when he denies that B.C.’s eviction rates during the pandemic are “within historical ranges”. This is an opaque justification to allow evictions to continue unabated as case numbers hold at steady highs.

Minister Eby - show us the data on evictions.


[1] https://www.cleo.on.ca/en/publications/tenantsaccess/eviction

[2] Note: Low income tenants can apply for fee waivers, and filing fees can be awarded to tenants who win their disputes https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/residential-tenancies/solving-problems/dispute-resolution 

[3] https://tribunalsontario.ca/en/governance-accountability-documents/

[4] BC Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) filed an FOI in 2011 and gained access to these internal reports. This suggest that reports do exist, but are not made public