We Need Your Voice!
The latest draft of Prince Edward Island’s Residential Tenancy Act is heavily weighted in favour of landlords and attacks existing protections for tenants. I support Prince Edward Island’s Fight for Affordable Housing’s (PEIFAH) call for greater tenants’ rights to be included in the new act, such as:
- There is never a reason to end a tenancy to do renovations, however extensive they may be. Tenants should be temporarily rehoused and allowed to return to their rental when the work is completed, with no change to their rent or rental agreement.
- Carrying out renovations that bring the unit up to standard and provide a safe, comfortable living environment is the bare minimum and should never be a reason for eviction or rent increases.
- The provision which gives landlords the right to argue for higher increases in vacant apartments must be removed. There must be stronger measures to stop above allowable annual rent increases between tenants (in reality a constant incentive for landlords to evict tenants)
- We also need a publicly accessible rental registry to give tenants the ability to access their building’s history and ensure illegal rent increases have not taken place.
- A considerable deciding factor should be data on income and wage levels in PEI and the financial hardship an individual tenant will experience from the rent increase (e.g. if the increased rent will be above 25% of the tenant’s income, a fitting definition of affordable). We need to to stop rampant gentrification destroying our communities.
- The cost of renovations should only be a factor if the changes needed are to keep the building well-maintained and safe. Cosmetic changes should never be a factor in rent increases.
- The government must develop property maintenance standards which a landlord must attend to (such as a broken refrigerator, water leaks, broken burners, cracked and rising floor tiles, malfunctioning fans and dirty or unhygienic hallways and communal areas). Inspectors must be hired to enforce these standards, the burden for enforcement should never be on the tenant.
- The creation of a position of a provincial housing planner to ensure that tenants are adequately rehoused when facing major renovations, demolition or the change of use of a rental unit.
I am against the ways in which the new Act would attack the rights of tenants by:
- By removing the cap on allowable annual rent increases (currently at 2.5%) the government is laying the groundwork for landlords to push for very high guidelines in the future.
- By taking away the right of tenants to challenge a rent increase at or below the provincial guideline (something that has been possible for over 30 years).
- Attacking vacancy control, meaning landlords can argue for larger rent increases when a rental unit is empty. This could lead to considerable increases in rents on vacant apartments and the loss of many affordable units.
- Rolling back the moratorium on renoevictions which, although it was inadequate, attempted to stop renovictions when the renovations and repairs were cosmetic and not needed. According to the new Act, tenants can be evicted if their landlord has plans to do unnecessary renovations designed to “spiff up” the building and raise rents.
- Still allowing renovictions when renovations are needed to keep the building structure well maintained and tenants safe. In practice this could mean that shoddy landlords will be rewarded for long needed renovations with higher rents while tenants will loose their homes whenever major work is necessary to bring their home up to standard.
- Watering down the responsibilities of landlords to maintain a rental at decent standards. The new draft says landlords must maintain the building in compliance with any laws or bylaws, but there are no laws or bylaws which set out maintenance standards. The responsibility of landlords to maintain rentals in a good state of repair must be put back into the legislation.
- Making it easier for tenants to be evicted if they miss their rent. The length of notice a landlord must give a tenant for non-payment of rent has been reduced from 20 days to 14 day and the time a tenant has to file a dispute has been reduced from 10 days to 7 days.
The housing crisis will continue to drastically affect communities on PEI if action is not taken.
In its current form the Residential Tenancy Act will only increase the severity of the crisis. I urge government to take responsibility for the housing crisis on the Island and will hold my local MLA responsible for the standards set by the new Act.