B.C. looking at protections for renters with roommates: housing minister

British Columbia’s housing minister says the provincial government is looking at adding more protections for roommates who are on the same rental lease.

This comes after CityNews shared the story of Bryanna Johnson, whose landlord wanted to increase her rent nearly 30 per cent after her roommate moved out, negating the existing agreement.

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Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says Johnson’s situation is “unfortunate.”

“Quite frankly, the landlord in this situation needs to give their head a bit of a shake. Because you know, these are individuals that are probably paying the rent on time and we’re in a housing crisis. Every time somebody gets displaced, that puts another person into a precarious situation,” he told CityNews.

According to the Residential Tenancy Act, “if one or any of the tenants on a tenancy agreement serves the landlord notice to end the tenancy, the tenancy ends for all of the tenants in the rental unit on the effective date of the notice.”

Bryanna Johnson sitting on the steps of her home alongside a dog.

Bryanna Johnson (pictured) says she was facing a hefty rent increase after her roommate moved out. She’s calling for change to B.C.’s rental policies surrounding co-lessees. (Supplied)

“We’re looking right now at what we can do to support people that are co-signatories on a lease and what that can look like given that the environment that we’re in now with the shortage of housing, it’s putting people into really really precarious situations,” Kahlon said.

One strategy, he says, is educating people about potential pitfalls before they sign onto a new lease.

“I know that if a lease is signed and there’s specific mention in the lease that if one individual leaves the other can continue, that this wouldn’t be an issue. But many people don’t know that, and that’s an important education piece,” he said.

As for whether changes will be written into law, Kahlon says it may not be that simple.

“Any change that requires legislation takes time for consultation, takes time for development. But then again we are looking at what short-term fixes we can bring in. Staff are reviewing right now if there’s easy fixes but often with these types of changes, there’s never easy fixes,” he explained.

Johnson isn’t the first person to see her rent increased due to a roommate moving out. In January, CityNews shared the story of Michael Ianni, who was ousted from his Vancouver suite after a roommate moved out and their lease was broken.

At that time, Premier David Eby called roommate situations a “particularly challenging issue,” adding the B.C. government would be looking at changing rules for renters.

With files from Hana Mae Nassar

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