Quebec aims to reduce wait times for rental board hearings, force co-property owners to save for repairs
Critics of Bill 16, tabled Wednesday, say proposed changes don't do enough to protect vulnerable tenants
The Quebec government has tabled draft legislation which Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Andrée Laforest calls the biggest reform in the history of Quebec's rental board, the Régie du Logement.
Bill 16 will replace the rental board with a new administrative housing tribunal with more staff and broader powers, with the aim of reducing the average delay for a rental dispute hearing from 16 months to two.
The bill provides for the hiring of 30 new information officers, as well as more support staff.
"We are giving special clerks more power," Laforest said Wednesday. "They will be able to judge the reasons for non-payment of rent, for example, or non-payment of electricity."
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Tenants' rights groups say the housing bill is too technical, geared toward lawyers rather than the tenants who are actually affected by the long waits to have their cases heard.
"This bill is clearly not enough to make the rental board a better tribunal, so the access to justice won't be better with this bill," said Maxime Roy-Allard, spokesperson for the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).
Roy-Allard says Bill 16 vulnerable tenants need better protection against being evicted.
"It's very easy for landlords to kick out tenants," said Roy-Allard, who says that the situation in Montreal is at a breaking point because the rental vacancy rate is just 1.9 per cent right now, and rents are going up.
"When there's a lack of housing, there is more discrimination, and tenants suffer from greater injustice," Roy-Allard told Radio-Canada. "We need a functioning tribunal — one that tenants can make use of."
The housing bill includes provisions for mandatory training for building inspectors, who do not require any permit or training to operate right now.
Laforest says it's important to "standardize practices to protect buyers."
It also gives more powers to municipalities in cases where, for example, a private seniors residence is threatened with closure: in such cases, the municipality could seize the building in order to keep it operating.
Co-property reno funds
Many co-owned properties in Quebec are older buildings, in need of extensive renovation. But there is no obligation in existing laws to compel the co-owners of undivided condiminiums to contribute to a pool to pay for major repairs and renovations.
Bill 16 would change that, making co-owners keep track of building maintenance and set aside funds monthly for future repairs.
Laforest estimates that change will cost each co-owner of a shared property an average of about $5.50 per month.
With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Radio-Canada