- Tenants must be viewed as citizens who want stable, secure and long-term homes, just like homeowners. They are equally disrupted, and negatively affected when their home is threatened.
- Many tenants choose tenancy as a lifelong form of housing. Homeownership is not everyone’s goal. So, all housing arrangements must be viewed as equally desirable and of equal value.
HERE ARE THREE KEY ISSUES THAT THE PEIFAH IS FIGHTING FOR:
1. A Rent Registry – to prevent illegal increases
What makes a rent increase illegal? On PEI the landlord is allowed to increase the rent once every 12 months , even if the tenant changes during that 12 month period. And rent increases can never be above the guideline without an application for approval from the Office of the Director of Residential Property. Again, – even if the tenant changes.
We regularly hear from tenants who discover that when they moved out of an apartment the landlord illegally raised the rent. We also often learn when meeting with tenant groups in their buildings that the newer tenants are paying illegal rents.
Sometimes landlords withdraw a service such as heat or internet but leave the rent the same. This is also an illegal rent increase.
Although we have what is known as “vacancy control” on PEI – that is when the landlord cannot raise the rent every time a new tenant moves in – it is not very useful without a rent registry. It is easy for a landlord to raise the rent illegally when a new tenant moves in. How will the new tenant find out what the previous tenant was being charged? And, even if they do find out that the landlord is charging them an illegal rent, will they want to challenge the landlord and take him to the rentals board? It’s a very scary way to start off a tenancy and risks retaliation. The power balance between the tenant and the landlord is just too great. There are so many ways that landlord can make life miserable for a tenant if they want to. We’ve seen it happen.
That is why we need a public rent registry which is accessible and free to use.
Landlords would then know that the legal rent was available to all to know and be less likely to try to swindle prospective tenants.
This is what the PEIFAH is asking for:
A registry that:
- is accessible to the public free of charge both online and in person.
- includes information on current and past rents, past applications and reasons for rent increases above the guideline and information on reviewed capital expenditures, legal orders, including orders to do repairs
- is similar to the existing Deeds Registry Offices at which property owners or prospective home buyers can view all sales transactions, mortgages, legal orders, liens etc. against a particular property.
Refusal of a landlord to file would result in fines.
2. An end to renovictions
On November 1st of this year (2023) the temporary moratorium on evictions will come to an end. The moratorium has provided tenants with a temporary reprieve but we should expect applications to renovict to pick up again as landlords recognise that a path to getting rid of their current tenants and raising rents by large amounts has been reopened.
Now is the time to demand that government end renovictions altogether and extend the moratorium until that is done!
The PEI FAH believes that the need to do repairs and renovations should never be a ground for eviction. If a landlord really needs vacancy possession in order to do repairs (and this will happen only very rarely) they should be required by law to satisfactorily rehouse the tenant in the same community until the work is completed. The tenancy would continue and the tenant would move back into their apartment at their old rent.
The PEI FAH also proposes the establishment of an Office of the Provincial Planner. This office will require landlords to create written plans for temporarily rehousing tenants when tenants need to move out to enable necessary repairs.
What can you do?
Here’s three things you can do (and we can help you with any of them):
- Organize tenants in your building to talk to your MLA. (Or meet with your MLA individually if you rent in a house rather than a building). You can find your district here and your MLA contact information here: https://www.assembly.pe.ca/members
- Write a letter to the Editor of the Guardian at firstname.lastname@example.org They like letters to be not too long and on just one topic!
- Phone or email the PEI Fight for Affordable Housing if you are willing to help out in any way!…. artwork, phoning, writing, talking to your neighbours or speaking out. Reach us at 902-894-4573 or housingpei @gmail.com.
PEI’s new Residential Tenancy Act has made the process of renovicting more lengthy. Landlords must first apply to the Director for permission to serve eviction notices on the tenants. If permission is granted the tenants must receive a 6 month notice. However, the Act continues to enable renoviction regardless of whether repairs and upgrades are needed.
These provisions must be removed from the new Act and replaced with provisions which set out the obligations of the landlord to ensure a tenant is rehoused while the apartment needs to be empty.
More about renovictions
Renovictions have become a prime strategy for landlords to get rid of tenants and hike the rents so no ordinary worker can afford them. They are a key tool in “gentrifying” our neighbourhoods – driving out residents of modest means and creating non-inclusive elite ghettos for the well off.
A landlord’s responsibility under a tenancy agreement is to maintain the premises in a good state of repair. If major work is required to fulfill this obligation, such as new windows or updated electrical systems, it makes no sense that a tenancy be ended. It’s like a boss saying to a worker that in order for us to fix the ventilation in the workplace so that we can meet health and safety standards we’re going to have to fire you!
Tenant organizations across the country are demanding an end to renovictions.
The Vancouver Tenants’ Union is taking exactly the same position as the PEI Fight for Affordable Housing. They say: “It doesn’t really make sense that a renovation should be a reason to break a tenancy agreement in the first place,”…… “but it’s been enshrined in B.C. law for a long time.”. https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/03/04/BC-Anti-Renoviction-Reform-Too-Weak/
Renovictions are not allowed in Quebec
Renovictions A core principle of landlord tenant law in Québec is the “Right to Maintain Occupancy”. This principle simply means that tenants who comply with the law can stay in their dwelling as long as they wish. It embodies a societal belief that tenancies must be protected in law to keep them secure, stable and permanent.
Québec’s law which is consistent with this principle does not allow terminations of tenancy for renovations and major repairs. It allows for a temporary vacancy where necessary, but the tenancy agreement continues and the tenant moves back in when the work is done at the previous rent. The tenant has the right to compensation which must cover their moving costs, any storage fees, any difference between the cost of their temporary accommodation and the rent they were paying at their original home and any other additional costs.
For example, a Quebec Court has ordered a landlord to ensure that a tenant is relocated in the same neighbourhood as the tenancy in order that the tenant can continue to visit their aged father everyday. The Court ordered the landlord to cover the cost of a hotel room at a cost of up to $250 a day.
3. A provincial maintenance standards regulation enforced through public inspectors
Inability to get repairs done in a timely fashion is one of the most common problems we hear from tenants. The problem is made worse because many tenants live in a state of fear. They worry that if they ask for repairs or “rock the boat” the landlord will make life difficult for them and find ways to ease them out of the tenancy. The fear of losing their home and being tossed into a market in which there is nothing affordable can paralyse a tenant into taking no action and putting up with deteriorating conditions.
Tenants talk to us about things like non-functioning or broken fridges, freezers, stove elements, fans and laundry machines, dangerous rising floor tiles and walls and windows which are not maintained and repaired and inadequate snow removal.
Since 2019 PEI Fight for Affordable Housing has asked for a provincial maintenance standards regulation which is enforced on behalf of the public by rental property maintenance standards inspectors. Tenants would then have a non-threatening, neutral party to reach out to if they are having difficulty getting repairs done. The regulation would set out required standards of day-to-day maintenance of rental units. Inspectors would be able to issue landlords with a list of violations with a time frame for doing repairs and impose penalties on landlords who do not comply.
Tenants should not have to go through the scary process of making an application to the Director of Residential Tenancies as their first step in getting their landlord to fix things. That is an intimidating process which often means loss of work and income and turns the issue into an adversarial confrontation between tenants and landlords. (If a landlord is claiming that the tenant caused the disrepair, they can make an application to the Director to be reimbursed.)
A properly enforced provincial repair and maintenance regulation benefits the community as a whole and would play an important role in maintaining the integrity of the rental housing stock across PEI and preventing loss of affordable housing through neglect. There have recently been several situations across the Maritimes of buildings being condemned due to neglect and tenants being given very short notice to leave. In two cases the Red Cross, a charity normally used in natural disasters and war zones, has been called in to help tenants out! Who is holding the landlords responsible?
Why the new Residential Tenancy Act makes the need for regulation more urgent.
For over thirty years the obligation of a landlord to provide tenants with well-maintained homes was set out as a statutory condition of a tenancy in the Rental of Residential Property Act. The new Act, The Residential Tenancy Act, changes things.
The old Act said that a landlord shall “keep the premises in a good state of repair and fit for habitation during the tenancy and shall comply with any enactment regarding standards of health, safety or housing…”. As there were no maintenance standards by-laws implemented by PEI municipalities and no comprehensive Provincial standards for the maintenance of rental units, the obligation to “keep the premises in a good state of repair” was very important. Tenants could assume that repairs such as broken or non-functioning refrigerators or freezers, stove elements which don’t work, flooring which has risen and become hazardous, broken fans and inadequate snow removal were included in the landlord’s obligation to “keep the premises in a good state of repair”.
The obligation to “keep the premises in a good state of repair” has been removed from the new Residential Tenancy Act in which the only obligation of the landlord with respect to repairs is to “comply with health, safety and housing standards required by law”. Since there are no municipal or provincial maintenance standards which cover the regular maintenance and repair of the inside of a unit and common areas, the new section is very inadequate and not as strong as the old law.
The only standards at a provincial or municipal level which have any relevance to tenants are in the Public Health Act Rental Accommodation Regulations and in fire prevention regulations.
The regulations in the Public Health Act are primarily concerned with basic cleanliness, sanitary considerations and health rather than maintenance and repair. They certainly do not cover the wide range of maintenance issues experienced by tenants. While Environmental Health inspectors can respond to problems regarding mould, faulty plumbing, pest infestations and issues which might affect the tenant’s health, they have no enforcement power or ability to impose penalties.
Fire prevention regulations require adequate fire exits and maintenance of sprinkler systems but have little or no relevance to the day-to-day maintenance issues experienced by tenants.
In conclusion the need for a provincial regulation regarding maintenance and repair of rental units on PEI is more important now than ever.