Letter: Burnaby's new tax on landlords is class warfare that will backfire

Editor:

Re: Burnaby charging landlords $570/year for licence replacing ‘stove tax’, NOW, Oct. 11

This month, the City of Burnaby announced changes to their Supplementary Utility Fee, including the introduction of a new House Rental Business Licence which is the same amount as the Supplementary Utility Fee.

According to the city’s website, the purpose of their new House Rental Business Licence is to ensure that homeowners renting out their house will be required to pay a fee similar to the Supplementary Utility Fee. Don’t be fooled by the city’s attempt to meld these issues and obfuscate the truth.
All Burnaby homeowners must now swear a declaration as to whether their house contains a suite, whether this suite is rented and whether the entire house is rented. Previously, all houses with suites were required to pay the Supplemental Utility Fee, but now the fee will only apply where the suite is rented. As such, if family members occupy the suite, the fee will no longer be owing.
The theory behind the original fee was that if a home contains a suite, the homeowner should be subject to the supplemental fee because there is additional strain on the city’s utilities.

If the city now chooses to waive this fee because the suite is used by relatives who do not pay rent - that is the city’s prerogative. However, to attempt to recoup this lost revenue from landlords renting out single-family homes to single-family tenants is disingenuous.
Why should a single family house be subject to two levels of utility fees simply because it is occupied by a tenant? The recently introduced House Rental Business Licence of $570 is simply an additional tax on landlords.
I appreciate that it is difficult for most to have sympathy for those fortunate enough to own two houses and generate rental income; however, continually punishing landlords is not the way to encourage the much-needed additions to the city’s rental stock. These sorts of taxes will not only discourage the creation on new rental housing, but also cause existing rental housing to disappear.

The irony is that this new house tax does not apply to apartments, yet the most pronounced shortage in the supply of rental accommodation is for larger housing units suitable for families.
I currently earn significantly less than a one-per-cent rate of return (before tax) on my rental house in South Burnaby and this new $570 annual fee will further decrease my return. At some point, it fails to make any economic sense to continue.

I fail to see how this benefits tenants. Perhaps the city is more interested in class warfare and a cash grab from those that they perceive will elicit no sympathy than benefiting tenants who run the risk of eviction after landlords sell their properties because they finally get sick and tired of being taxed and regulated to death.
Laura Brunoro, Burnaby

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