Posted on 19 November 2021
An organization advocating for the rights of tenants is calling on the province to overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act and introduce "real" rent control and eviction protections after surveying tenants in its membership.
Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which is made up of a group of low- to moderate-income residents advocating for social and economic justice, were on Moncton's Main Street Thursday with their new report titled N.B. Renters at Risk.
The report's findings are based on the organization's Oct. 6 launch of an online survey for tenants. The goal of the survey was to find out more about rent increases, evictions and the condition of rental units. Acorn member Peter Jongeneelen said 169
New Brunswickers responded in total to the survey.
"What we have found is basically that tenants are having a lot of problems getting any kind of repairs done," he said. "They feel threatened with eviction."
The report says 44 per cent of respondents have had trouble getting repairs done in their units, and 43 per cent fear eviction when asking for repairs. "That is a concerning thing," said Jongeneelen.
The report also says 36.5 per cent of those surveyed said they have been threatened with eviction by either their landlord or building manager.
Willy Scholten, president of the New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association, said if tenants are being wrongfully evicted they should call the rentalsman. "There is a process and tenants have the right to that process," said Scholten, who also questioned how representative the survey was. "There's 36,000 tenants in the province, so it's hardly a representative sample of tenants' experience," said Scholten.
But Jongeneelen said "there is a lack of any kind of eviction protection from a tenants point of view" and said many tenants do not want to come forward to complain in fear it will jeopardize their tenancy.
When it comes to rising rents, Scholten added "the biggest issue in New Brunswick is the double taxation on rental properties."
In an opinion column for Brunswick News published Nov. 14, Scholten placed the blame for rising rents on property taxes
"that are already 251 per cent of the national average thanks to the "double tax" - a second tax imposed by New Brunswick on non-owner-occupied buildings," and a steep hike in property tax assessment.
"New Brunswick is the only province that levies a double property tax," Scholten wrote, "and it is tenants who end up paying the price."
Jongeneelen said another concerning finding in the survey results was that 81.4 per cent of respondents have moved at least once in the past five years; 52 per cent have moved at least twice; and 18 per cent of tenants reported moving more than four times.
"A large portion of respondents gave reasons for moving that we consider direct results of the N.B. housing crisis and the inadequate tenant legislation in the province," the report states. It notes 20 per cent of respondents said they moved due to poor living conditions; nine per cent cited bad treatment by landlord; and 14 per cent said they moved because they could
not afford the rent.
"When somebody has to move every four, five years, or has to move every couple of years, that's a big expense for anyone," said Jongeneelen. "You can imagine somebody who is a senior citizen living on a fixed income - [moving] is not something that is good for them, because that is an extra expense that they cannot afford."
Jongeneelen said "real" rent control would solve a lot of problems for tenants and added the Residential Tenancies Act needs to be updated.
"We would like to see a rewrite of the Residential Tenancies Act, it is clearly out of date. It was written...in the 1970s," he said.
"Tenants need rights, they need protections."
Earlier this month the province introduced legislation to address problems in New Brunswick's rental market including limiting rent increases to once a year and banning landlords from increasing rent in a tenant's first year.
The changes would also include: increasing the authority of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal by allowing it to review all rent increases; increasing the notice period for a rent increase to six months from three; giving tenants 30 days to apply to
have a rent increase reviewed by the tribunal instead of the current 15 days; and eliminating "unnecessary administrative steps for landlords to remove barriers to service," according to Service New Brunswick.
"The recent legislation that was introduced by the New Brunswick government on Nov. 2 falls far short of any kind of tenant rights," argues Jongeneelen.
Article by Telegraph-Journal With files from Derek Haggett and Andrew Waugh