NDP bill would require Manitoba landlords to improve energy efficiency before big rent increases
Opposition party will also delay bill that would restrict right of tenants to object to rent increases
An Opposition NDP MLA says his new bill aims to protect Manitoba tenants from rising rents while offering landlords incentives to make their buildings more energy efficient.
Wolseley MLA Rob Altemeyer brought the bill forward in the legislature on Tuesday.
It would require landlords who want to raise rents above the guideline set by the Residential Tenancies Branch to first show they have taken "reasonable steps to improve the energy, water and heating efficiency of their building," Altemeyer said.
This year, the rent increase guideline was set at 1.3 per cent.
The bill doesn't specify what would qualify as reasonable improvements. Altemeyer said that would be determined by the government.
As an Opposition MLA, Altemeyer can't bring forward any bills that include spending requirements, but he said the bill includes a call for government to provide financial incentives for landlords to improve their buildings.
With a new carbon tax and rising Hydro rates, utility costs are expected to rise significantly, Altemeyer said.
No incentive for improvements
Currently, Altemeyer said landlords and tenants are in a catch-22 in which tenants pay utility costs but don't own the building they live in, and therefore don't have the right to make improvements. Landlords, on the other hand, own the building but don't pay the utility costs.
"So nobody has the incentive to do the right thing and we end up with renters facing ever more rent increases because utility costs are going up," he said.
The bill faces an uphill battle to be passed into law, because the Progressive Conservatives have a majority in the Manitoba Legislature.
Proposal 'just not fair'
Avrom Charach is vice-president of Kay Four Properties, Inc. and spokesperson for the Professional Property Managers' Association of Manitoba.
He said Altemeyer's bill is "well-intentioned but he does not understand how things work."
He said his costs have never gone up by less than the guideline, and many of the cost increases faced by landlords, like property taxes, are beyond their control.
"That's just not fair. That's adding insult to injury. That's saying if my costs go up 10 cents, I can't even get one cent of that until I spend another dollar."
When the NDP were in government, Charach said they introduced incentives for landlords to improve energy efficiency by offering faster amortization rates if, for example, a landlord installed an energy-efficient furnace.
"But they did not say that you will never be allowed to recover a penny of the additional property taxes you pay until such time as you put a new furnace in."
NDP will delay omnibus bill
The official Opposition also announced they are delaying a bill that would restrict the ability of tenants to object to rent increases below the guideline.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said his party has selected Bill 12, the provincial government's omnibus red tape-reduction legislation, as the second of five bills they can delay until the next legislative sitting.
Bill 12 contains a clause that amends the Residential Tenancies Act to remove tenants' rights to complain to the residential tenancies director unless the increase exceeds the guideline.
"It just seems that if your suite is falling into really bad shape, it's falling into disrepair, it seems like it would be unfair if they got any sort of rent increase in that situation. That's what we're objecting to," Kinew said.
"Over the past two years, 40 objections were filed, with 38 of those being referred to Residential Tenancies Branch officers assigned to deal with outstanding repairs required for suites, something that will not change," said a statement from Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen, who introduced the bill.
"These objections put an unnecessary burden on the RTB and create backlogs and delays for tenants that are objecting on reasonable grounds. Under these circumstances, tenants are going through a process that won't help them in the end and will potentially add unnecessary safety risk."