Some Island housing advocates are raising concerns over proposed legislation that would replace the 30-year-old Rental of Residential Property Act.
The P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing says if the Residential Tenancy Act passes in its current draft form, it will do away with the moratorium on evictions for renovations recently passed in the P.E.I. Legislature.
“Right now it seems that a large number of tenants feel vulnerable because they could be renovicted,” said Leo Cheverie, a member of the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing.
“We have seen story after story after story on this, of people being renovicted even though they’ve lived in place for 15, 20, 25 years. It’s a major concern. What you are doing is removing people from their homes. And in some cases landlords have taken advantage of that to up the rent by a substantial amount.”
The current proposed version of the act gives tenants a first refusal on units they’ve been evicted from for renovations — once they come back on the market. And though the moratorium passed in the legislature was always intended to be temporary, Cheverie’s group worries it would allow landlords to raise rent to unaffordable levels for tenants, even if their previous tenant was interested in returning.
This draft also eliminates the 2.5 per cent cap on annual allowable rent increases, which was part of a previous draft.
However, the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission said if the act passes as currently drafted, increases will still be decided by the regulatory body.
Cheverie said if the act is passed in its current form, landlords would be able to evict tenants for “cosmetic changes” to a unit. He said landlords should only be able to evict for renovations required to maintain the structural integrity of the building.
“More and more housing stock is getting bought up by maybe fewer and fewer hands. So that power is being concentrated. So we need an act that restores balance between landlords and their tenants to make sure tenants are treated fairly.”
In 2021, IRAC said it dealt with 12 applications for evictions served for renovations.
No wording on living standards?
Canada asked the province about these concerns on Thursday but did not hear back. However, last week Housing Minister Brad Trivers said the hope was to strike a balance for renters and landlords.
Currently, under the act, landlords are required to maintain apartments keeping units in a good state of repair and fit for habitation. Cheverie said there is no reference in the new draft of the act to maintain livable standards.
“We’ve been asking for provincial maintenance standards for every brief we have submitted to government, yet we have not seen that happen,” he said.
“We know of people that have been evicted because of living in places that didn’t meet those standards already. So, it’s basically tenants who are paying the price for this.”
Islanders can offer their input on the draft through online sessions on Jan. 11 and 13. Written submissions can be sent through the province’s website.
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