Global News: N.B. renters concerned with residential tenancy tribunal response times
Posted January 13, 2023
On New Year’s Eve, one day before the expiry of New Brunswick’s one-year rent cap, Leigh Johnson received notice that the $800 rent for her downtown Moncton apartment would be increasing to $1,125 in April.
“I first checked my rights, looked online and then went to Service New Brunswick and sent them all my papers all the notices and said I need a rent revision,” she told Global News in an interview on Thursday. “What’s going on with this, is this allowed?”
According to provincial tenancy laws, landlords must give six months’ notice for rent increases in New Brunswick.
Tenants in New Brunswick must approach the province’s residential tenancy tribunal to contest rent increases.
Tribunal officers then evaluate if the proposed rent increase is higher than what comparable apartments in the area rent for. If they are, they can require the landlord to spread the increase over two or three years.
Johnson and her landlord have since come to a mutual agreement for her to pay $975 in rent starting in June.
She’s concerned though, that she and others in the building haven’t heard anything from Service New Brunswick.
“I’m breathing a little easier today but I’m still very anxious about the future and I think everybody in this building actually still is,” Johnson said.
Nichola Taylor, a chairperson with ACORN NB, a tenant advocacy group, said delays in hearing from the tribunal are a major concern for the tenants she works with.
“If you are trying to contest a rent increase of renoviction, time is of the essence,” she told Global News.
“You don’t have that time because either you have to look for somewhere else, and we know that there is a lack of affordable apartments, or you’re gonna have to make that decision to pay that rent increase, so you’re at the mercy of the landlord,” she said.
Her group is calling for the reinstatement of the 3.8 per cent rent increase cap that was in effect for 2022.
Service NB Minister Jill Green told Global News on Thursday that the tribunal does not have a backlog.
The Residential Tenancies Tribunal, who responds to applicants, sets a target of 48 hours to respond to applicants, with issues resolved on average in 2022 within 18 days.
The province announced on Thursday a new housing website along with “housing navigators” who can help tenants with questions related to housing.
“Tenants can have another individual go and report what’s going on for them. They don’t have to put it themselves. We’ve put many, many ways to try to make it easier for tenants to not be fearful of what could happen if they go to the residential tenancies tribunal,” she said.
Landlords can’t evict a tenant for a year after the tribunal has done a review.
While she wouldn’t give any details, Green said the government had been consulting with stakeholders regarding legislation around rent hikes and that changes would be coming in the spring.
“There will be some changes to the legislation going forward, we’re quite sure,” she said.
Written by Suzanne Lapointe for Global News