Frequently Asked Questions
This page is about answering the most common questions people have about rent banks. Each rent bank is operated independently and those looking for services are advised to contact a rent bank closest to them to find out specific information about their program.
A rent bank is a short-term or temporary homelessness prevention tool that helps to provide housing stability for low- to moderate-income renters who are unable to pay rent or utilities due episodes or emergencies that compromise their ability to pay.
Rent banks also offer access to other information and supports – including financial advice, mediations between renters and landlords, or access to other supports and services - to help stabilize their housing in the future.
BC Rent Bank is a project of Vancity Community Foundation, and funded by the Province of BC. The mandate of the BC Rent Bank is:
- To support the funding of existing rent banks;
- To provide support and seed funding for the establishment of new rent banks in BC; and,
- To create the infrastructure necessary to support a potential future province-wide rent bank system or service.
BC Rent Bank’s goal is that regardless of where you live in the province, you can be supported to help maintain your housing. This goal has not yet been achieved, and establishing a province-wide infrastructure is our strategic focus over the next two years of the project.
BC Rent Bank does not directly provide rent loans to tenants. These loans are currently administered through local rent banks, operated by non-profits in communities around BC.
The most common uses of rent bank loans are:
- Money owed for rent
- Payment of utilities that are overdue
- Security deposit, pet deposit or first month’s rent to help people gain access to housing
Understanding that each site has their own set of criteria here are some of the most common qualifiers:
- 19+ age
- Resident of the community
- Proof of ability to repay the loan
- Experience of a temporary, unexpected crisis
- Demonstration that loan will stabilize the housing situation
It is common practice among rent banks to allow an individual who has taken a loan to postpone or defer their loan payment as long as they contact the rent bank in advance of the loan payment being due and being taken from their bank account.
This is important because the automation of loan payments means if the loan system tries to withdraw the payment from the account when there is not enough money there, the payment will be rejected (known as “bounce”) and will then attract a charge to the individual of anywhere between $25 and $50 which is called non-sufficient fund (NSF) charges. NSF charges are usually more than the actual loan repayment amount.
- Landlords – Not having to absorb the cost of the missing rent payment and, if the tenant is evicted, incur the expenses of finding new tenants.
- Other Renters – Each time an individual leaves a rental property the landlord is allowed to increase the rental rate (so while keeping a tenant will not free up a new rental space, reducing rental turn-over helps keep rental prices lower).
- Social service Agencies – Fewer individuals seeking support from over-burdened services such as shelters, which in many communities are already at or over-capacity on a regular basis
While there are some exceptions, most rent banks do not offer grants. However, in BC, there are some grants available from government specifically to help offset the cost of rent. These grants are available to individuals who meet certain criteria:
- The Rental Assistance Program is for working people with low- to moderate-income
- Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) is designed for people who are over 60 years of age who are living on low-incomes in BC.
- The Crisis Supplement is for individuals who are on income assistance, disability assistance or hardship assistance.
- BC Hydro Customer Crisis Grant is for customers how have experienced a temporary financial crisis and cannot afford to pay their utility bill and want to avoid disconnection.
BC Rent Bank, in collaboration with five rent bank partners, is also offering emergency housing grants and support through federal funding provided by Reaching Home. This funding is available until September 30, 2020. For more information, please visit our COVID-19 Updates page.