Quebec landlords push for right to charge deposits

Landlords in the only province in the country that prohibits security deposits say it's time to change the law and provide better protection against tenants who skip out on rent.
Thousands of people are preparing to move Saturday on Quebec's annual moving day. (Radio-Canada)

On the eve of Quebec's annual moving day, landlords are pushing the government for change that will allow them to be better protected if tenants skip out on rent.

They're asking for a change in the law that will allow them to ask for security deposits, a practice that's already widely accepted elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.

Hans Brouillette of the province's landlord association says an average of one in four landlords with tenants leaving at end of June are still waiting for their last month's rent.

"The only way to protect or partially protect landlords is to have at least one month of rent in advance every month," he said.

In Quebec, it is illegal for a landlord to collect a deposit, ask for so-called key money or demand post-dated cheques.

Landlords outside of Quebec can ask for a deposit that can be used for costs incurred if tenants fail to pay, leave without notice, cause damage to the unit or fail to clean up properly when they leave.

Tenants are entitled to have their deposit refunded when they leave, with interest, if they've paid all they owe and left the place in good order.

Brouillette said the same rules should apply in Quebec.

It is the only province in the country where deposits are outlawed.  

Currently, landlords have to take tenants who skip out on rent or damage property before the Régie du logement.

Broulette said that process is often drawn out and, even if they do get a decision in their favour, former tenants often say they simply don't have the money to pay.

Prohibitive for low-income renters

While the idea may protect landlords, it may also make moving to a new place prohibitive for some who would then have to come up with up to two months rent upfront.

"With something like that, we will limit access to housing for low-income families," said Johnathan Carmichael of the Quebec City-based tenant advocacy group, BAIL.

"When you're poor, everything is calculated down to the penny."

Renter Stephanie Boulay, one of many Montrealers packing up to move this weekend, said she's against the idea, but understands why the province's landlords would want to protect themselves.

"It's expensive enough to move already," she said.  "For sure it has an impact on the budget, but if I know now for next year or two years and I know I'm planning on moving, I would work it in." 

Danielle Godin, also moving this weekend, said she already paid a deposit on her new place after the new landlord requested it.

"We were not obligated, but I think it's fair," she said.

"It's not that much and, if it's the law, everybody is going to pack up and make sure they have some money."