Telegraph-Journal: New report argues power imbalance between landlords, tenants

Posted November 22, 2021

SAINT JOHN • Tiffany Sherwood has lived in five apartment buildings over the last seven years. 

Poor living conditions have forced the north-end Saint John resident from her home, she says. Now in a much bet-ter apartment situation, Sherwood is paying about $300 more per month than she can comfortably afford. 

"I've had a horrible experience —many horrible experiences — renting in Saint John," Sherwood said. "There's been quite a few different ones?' 

Sherwood's experience renting in New Brunswick is corroborated by a new report released by NB ACORN, a tenants' rights group, which found 81.4 per cent of tenant s surveyed had moved at least once in the last five years. Ac-cording to the report, 20 per cent cited poor living conditions as the reason for moving, while 14 per cent moved because they couldn't afford rent and nine per cent said it was poor treatment by a landlord that caused them to move. 

The report, titled NB Renters at Risk: The Lack of Eviction Protection and Housing Insecurity, released on Thurs-day surveyed 169 tenants across the province. A press release accompanying the report's publication said the report demonstrates how fear of eviction cre-ates a power imbalance between land-lords and tenants. 

"Shelter and having somewhere safe and secure to live is considered a basic human right. A lot of your need fulfil-ment can't be done if you don't have somewhere to live," said Jill Farrar, co-chair of NB ACORN. "c.. landlords are holding all of the power by owning these places to live. They see it as an in-vestment while tenants see it as they need it to be comfortable and to be able to do the other things in their lives and to be safe." 

The report also found 36.5 per cent of respondents said they were threat-ened with eviction, while 20 per cent said they had been harassed by a land-lord, 43 per cent said they feared evic-tion when asking for repairs and 44 per cent said they had trouble getting main-tenance done. Speaking to the Telegraph-Journal on Wednesday ahead of the report's release, Sherwood had a list. 

Her first apartment, where she lived seven years ago, was moldy, she said. The building had one central heating shaft that was full of mould. Every time she turned on the heat, the smell of mould would permeate her apartment. Her landlord did nothing. 

Next, Sherwood moved to a base-ment apartment on Douglas Avenue. The building had no heat, even in win-ter. This was followed by an apartment on Exmouth Street, which had a bed-bug problem. 

Sherwood was only living in apart-ment number four for two months before her landlord evicted her and her partner because he wanted to move his parents in, Sherwood said. 

"That was during the pandemic right after the eviction hold ended," Sher-wood said. She and her partner were able to find the place they're in now, and while Sherwood said she's happy with the place, at $1,200 per month, the rent is much higher than the $900 per month comfortably afford. 

Farrar said NB ACORN had released the report after being frustrated with a 90-day rental review undertaken by the province earlier this year. The review found that New Brunswick is"not currently in a housing crisis," but tenants' advocates were left disappointed that it didn't address evictions. 

"So we decided towards the end of the summer, when we knew that the legislature was starting back up, that we would put out our own survey to try and address those questions and fill in the gaps," Farrar said. 

"We want the report to show that by leaving out the eviction questions, they are missing some of the really im-portant information about how the current rental market and the current housing crisis is affecting tenants in New Brunswick." 

Since NB ACORN opened its chapter in January, the group has continued to advocate for rent control, eviction protections and an overhaul of the New Brunswick Residential Tenancies Act. 

The Telegraph-Journal reached out to Willy Scholten, president of the New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association, to ask for his thoughts on some of the statistics presented in the NB ACORN report. 

"I think landlords, if they have somebody that has a repair that's in their unit, they should be able to call their landlords and the landlord should fix the issue;' Scholten said. 

Scholten said he was unaware of in-stances where tenants would be fearful to speak to a landlord about repairs. 

Vanessa Jones, of Moncton, said she feels she's now one of the lucky few. Currently Jones said she's living in a good situation with an understanding land-lord, but this wasn't always the case. 

Her last building she had to leave af-ter the living conditions became too dif-ficult to endure. After the building was sold to a new owner, renovations were started on her unit but never complet-ed. Jones was left to deal with holes in her wall, wires dangling from the ceil-ing and falling plaster. 

"We were doing daily cleaning. And we tried pleading with them and every-thing else;' ones said. Jones believes she was the victim of a 'renoviction'— when landlords renovate buildings with the plan to jack up the rent, causing those who can't afford it to move. Before she finally moved, Jones said she'd been told her rent could in-crease to $1,200 a month — well above what she could afford. 

"No other industry gets away with a 50 per cent increase," Jones said. 

"The attitude's got to change with profit over people" 
 

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Article by Emma McPhee for the Telegraph-Journal

 

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