Posted May 2, 2022
A national advocate for affordable housing is urging New Brunswickers to demand better protection for tenants who face "renovictions" and big rent increases they can't afford.
"We have to think about our senior population. We have to think about people who are disabled or on low or moderate income.
"We're not seeing the minimum wage rise fast enough to keep up with rents, so we need protection against needless evictions simply to raise the rents," said Peter Jongeneelen of Moncton, a New Brunswick representative for ACORN (Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now) Canada, a national union of low and moderate income people advocating for affordable housing.
ACORN Canada has launched a campaign, urging the provincial government to protect tenants from "renovictions."the practice of evicting tenants in order to carry out renovations that result in rent increases. Jongeneelen said ACORN and urges New Brunswickers to write emails to their local MLAs, Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson, who is responsible for landlord and tenant issues, and Premier Blaine Higgs.
ACORN is pressing the government to change the Residential Tenancies Act to put the onus on landlords to prove that a unit needs to be vacant in order to do renovations, provide a list of renovations that would require tenants to move out, provide better education for tenants to understand the rules, and if the vacancy is actually required, the landlord would have to compensate the tenant with 12 months rent.
Nichola Taylor of Fredericton said she was evicted from her apartment by a landlord who said he was doing renovations. Taylor said the law allows landlords to evict tenants before they begin major renovations, but the province doesn't define what renovations apply.
"It's extremely vague and puts the onus on the tenants to follow up to make sure they are following the rules," Taylor said Saturday. "But if you are being kicked out, you are more concerned with where you are going to live considering there are fewer apartments and rents are increasing."
ACORN is pushing New Brunswick to follow British Columbia's lead, which includes clearly defined rules on evicting people to do renovations.
"It's important to educate tenants on their rights.” said Taylor, who was able to find another apartment after her eviction.
The province recently introduced a bill to temporarily cap rent increases at 3.8 per cent, until the end of 2022. It is expected to be passed through the legislature in June. Once implemented, landlords will be required to reimburse overpayment in rent to tenants for rent increases that came into effect on or after Jan. 1, 2022.
"As minister, I also believe that landlords care for their tenants and will respect the provincial rent cap. However, we are aware of media reports that some landlords have discussed ways to potentially avoid the rent cap," housing minister Mary Wilson said in a statement to the Times & Transcript. "I encourage any tenant who receives a termination notice or is feeling pressured to accept a rent increase above 3.8 per cent to call the Residential Tenancies Tribunal at 1 888-762-8600. I am confident that the legislative changes we are introducing will help keep tenants in their homes by requiring landlords to provide a valid reason for ending a tenancy."
Wilson said the government continues to monitor the housing situation and look at affordable housing options. She said the rent cap would be reviewed at the end of the year.
Last week, New Brunswick landlords and property managers held an online conference call where they discussed ways to get around the provincial rent caps.
In an email to the Times & Transcript, the Moncton Real Estate Investing Organization said its goal is to educate people on investing in real estate and that they need to be aware of the recent rent cap changes and requirements for landlords.
"All members of Moncton REIO are committed to following and abiding by the new rent cap rules," the group said. "The goal of Moncton REIO is to educate through constructive, open conversations about changes and adjustments in our market."
The association said the number of new apartment buildings now under construction will put the onus on owners to be more competitive in the market.
"It is in the landlord's best interest to ensure their properties are at the highest standard to provide a quality living experience for tenants and continue attracting tenants to their units to ensure their investment is performing well," the email said." In terms of what property owners can do to deal with the rent cap, they need to be educated on the rules and abide by them as it is in the best interest of all parties - the tenants, the landlords, and the province."
Article by Alan Cochrane for the Times & Transcript