A bylaw ensuring occupant safety in legal residential rental units is being worked on by the city of Williams Lake.
The city’s chief building inspector Gary Deane presented a draft of the standards of maintenance bylaw to council at the committee of the whole meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 28.
“It’s about keeping people safe,” Deane said, noting it does not pertain to illegal suites.
“The tenant has to indicate that they have contacted the landlord to make a complaint and if there is no action then they can come to us.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said he was hesitant about the bylaw and wondered if the issue should be dealt with under the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch.
“It will put us in the driver seat and it’s another form of download. We will end up being the middleman and looking at all the complaints.”
Deane said the problem with the act is it can takes months, even years to come to a resolution.
“Even if the branch does come down with a judgment on the property owner they do not enforce it. It is up to the tenant to take that to civil court or supreme court,” he said.
“We are going to basically try and coerce the landlords into providing safe accommodation, that’s all it is.”
He said the city receives about three to five complaints a month about unsafe living conditions in legal suites.
Cobb also asked if there is no written rental agreement would there be no way to enforce the bylaw.
Responding Deane said the definition of a rental agreement under the rental tenancy act is that it does not have to be a written agreement.
“It can just be inclined, it can be verbal. Pretty well every agreement to rent a residential property is an agreement,” he said. “That is a contract as far as the rental tenancy branch is concerned.”
Coun. Scott Nelson said he felt a budget should be allocated if the bylaw is going to be adopted.
“I believe it will be another level of service,” Nelson said.
City chief administrative officer Gary Muraca said he thought the costs would be negligible and could be dealt with through current operations, but said the city will reach out to some other cities to see what has occurred there.
Deane said the draft bylaw is based on one created by the Residential Tenancy Branch and it has been adopted by other communities.
The bylaw would not apply to short-stay housing of 28 days or less and would not negate the requirements for landlords and tenants set forth by the BC Rental Tenancy Act.
Under the bylaw, the chief building inspector may direct an owner whose rental accommodation fails to meet the requirements of the bylaw to remedy the non-compliance within the time frame outlined in a written notice.
The complete draft is available on the city’s website under the meeting’s agenda.
Council received the draft bylaw and directed staff to bring a final version forward to a future meeting for consideration.