New Brunswick

N.B. senior hunts for apartment after new landlord doubles her rent

At 77, Marie Roy never thought she'd have to look for an apartment again. But last Friday, the new owner of her building announced that her rent would almost double — to $1,150 per month from $580.

77-year-old's rent goes from $580 to $1,150

Marie Roy has lived in the same New Brunswick apartment for nearly a decade. She said she's been forced to look for a new place to live after her new landlord doubled her rent. (Submitted by Marie Roy)

At 77, Marie Roy never thought she'd have to hunt for an apartment ever again.

"I was here for the rest of my life," said the Bathurst, N.B., resident of the two-bedroom apartment she's called home for nearly a decade. 

But last Friday, the new owner of her building announced that her rent would almost double — to $1,150 per month from $580.

Roy lives alone on a monthly pension of $1,600. 

"I'll have to move because there's no way I can pay that," she said. "It's cruel, really."

The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights has heard from numerous people forced out of their apartments after their rents were jacked up following the sale of the building. (iStock)

Cruel but legal, according to Aditya Rao, a member of the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights. 

"This is something that we've been seeing across the province over the last year, and even longer — outrageous rent increases," he said. "And this one … I mean, it's legal, but it's completely immoral."

Weak protections

Rao, who is a human rights lawyer in Fredericton, said New Brunswick has some of the weakest protections for renters in Canada. As long as proper notice is given, he said, there is little protection against rental increases, especially for those who have been in the same place less than five years. 

The only option open to a renter is to file a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, which then compares the rent to other units in the area. 

But that, said Rao, can be an "artificial" comparison. 

"If enough of the landlords raise the rent around her, then her rent increase becomes comparable," he said. 

Aditya Rao, an organizer with the New Brunswick Tenants Coalition, said his beef is with the province for failing to strengthen protections for tenants. (Ed Hunter)

If all legal avenues are exhausted without success, Rao implores the new landlord or property manager to "have a heart." After all, Roy is a senior on a pension, and the increase nearly doubles her rent. 

The letter to Roy was sent by Canada Homes for Rent, a Saint John-based property management company.

The government seems perfectly content to let this sort of nonsense continue."- Aditya Rao, human rights lawyer

Jason Fillmore, the company's regional director, declined an interview with CBC, but sent a statement by email. He specified that the Canada Homes for Rent does not own the building, but manages it for "outside investors."

"The rent increase is necessary to maintain and upgrade the building as it has been neglected for many years and fell in disrepair."

Market has 'increased dramatically'

Fillmore said a hot real estate market has been pushing up rents.

"In most cases tenants have lived in properties for over a decade without a rent increase and paying very low rents in a market that has increased dramatically," he said. "Unfortunately [past] owners did not keep up with the increases yearly, forcing the new owners of that building to do larger rent increases to cover operating costs and rising cost for materials."

He said the trend has been growing in Canada and has "finally hit New Brunswick as real estate investors look east to buy properties."

Jason Fillmore, the Canada Homes for Rent regional manager, says a big rent increase can reflect the failure of a property owner to repair and maintain a building for years at a time. (Canada Homes for Rent)

Roy said there have been no upgrades or improvements to her apartment since the building was sold, and she isn't aware of any major defects. 

Rao believes doubling a senior's rent is unconscionable, but his real beef is with the provincial government for failing to strengthen protections for tenants. 

"We can't really fault profit-seeking entities for seeking profit in an environment that prioritizes profit over human rights," Rao said. "That's what we're seeing here. And the government seems perfectly content to let this sort of nonsense continue."

He said it's time the government took action to ensure landlords can't increase the rent whenever they want, by how much they want.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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