Seniors notified of $675 rent increase face moving after 33 years in same building
'This is home to us,' says Pauline Tramble of Fredericton's Shore Street
A Fredericton couple who have lived in the same apartment building for 33 years are worried they'll have to move out after a new landlord gave notice of a $675 rent increase on their unit coming in April.
Pauline Tramble, 67, and her husband Charles Tramble, 84, received a letter Dec. 11 telling them their monthly rent would be jumping from $1,000 to $1,675 on April 1 for their three-bedroom apartment.
It is an increase Pauline says the two cannot afford, although she has no idea where they will go instead.
"We were devastated," she said.
"We just can't believe that it would go up that much. You know, you could accept $100, maybe $150. We were shocked. This is home to us. We just can't see us anywhere else."
The proposed 67.5 per cent increase comes after the New Brunswick government decided against a ban on "unreasonable" rent hikes above 30 per cent that it floated as an idea last spring.
Although opposed to rent control as a policy, Premier Blaine Higgs said in May that he had "sympathies" for tenants who experience "rate shocks" and was not opposed to banning extreme increases.
"I believe there needs to be some protection there for tenants in relation to the frequency and the extent to which a rate could be changed in a span of time," he said.
Higgs said that with more people moving to New Brunswick and driving up demand for housing, he did not want to see apartment owners take advantage by steeply raising rents.
"Did we have some cases where landlords looked at the market and said, 'Now's our chance?'" he said. "I don't want people's livelihoods and situations played with just because it's the right time."
In a news conference on May 7, executive council clerk Cheryl Hansen, the province's top civil servant, told reporters government was open to restricting increases above the 25 to 30 per cent range but ultimately abandoned the idea.
The Trambles occupy one of seven apartments in an older building on Fredericton's Shore Street. It's a prime location in the city, tucked in behind Waterloo Row, about 500 metres from the New Brunswick Legislature as the crow flies.
The property was sold by its longtime owner in November for $455,000 but then flipped a month later to new buyers for $775,000.
The latest owner and landlord is listed as DNV Properties Inc., a company operated by Dragan and Neda Veselinovic. They sent letters to multiple tenants in the building two weeks ago, giving notice of rent increases of 40 per cent and higher.
The owners cited a "recent increase in property prices, taxes and housing demand," as reasons.
"Thank you for your understanding of the cost pressures on us as we do those upon yourself," read the letters.
Taxes on the building are increasing next year by about $1,900 because of a jump in its assessed value. That's the equivalent of about $23 per apartment per month.
Tayfun Orkus, 83, also received notice of a rent increase. He is is a longtime neighbour of the Trambles.
"We are really good friends," said Orkus, who has lived in the building for 14 years.
"it is very nice if you have some people, some friends, you know."
Orkus pays $950 per month for his two-bedroom unit but was notified his rent would be jumping $525 per month to $1,475 in the spring.
He said that days after the building was sold for the second time, a group of people he believes were connected to the new owners let themselves into his apartment at night unannounced to view its layout.
"It was the first experience of my life that somebody break into my house without saying anything," Orkus said.
"I cannot live here anymore because it is too expensive."
Two young couples who also live in the building said they will likely have to move as well but mostly expressed concern about what is happening with their elderly neighbours.
"We are all very close," Emily Kyle said of tenants in the building.
Kyle has lived in the building for three years with her partner and six-year-old son. She said their rent is jumping $425 to $1,475. That is in addition to a $200 increase they were hit with by previous owners last June.
At the new rent, she said, they are better off buying their own home but she worries that is not an option for Orkus or the Trambles.
"It's a real shame because they're going to have to look for a new place," Kyle said. "So it's quite devastating, really."
Patrick Donovan agreed.
He and his partner received notice of a $525 increase in their own rent, but he feels the bigger problem is what is happening to the older tenants.
"We're a pretty tight knit community there," said Donovan.
"At the same time as I'm looking for extra options for myself, I've been looking for places for Charles, Pauline and Tayfun because, I mean, they haven't been in the rental market for 30 years. It's a different beast now, and I think I want to do anything that I can for them."
Last week the legislature passed some improvements in tenant protections, such as banning more than one rent increase per year, but even that will not help Shore Street tenants, according to the province. Their rent increase notices were delivered Dec.11, one week before the new rules became law.
"All notices of rent increases served before December 18, 2021, are subject to the rules and regulations that were in place on the date the notice was served," said Service New Brunswick's director of communications Jennifer Vienneau.
On Monday, Pauline and Charles Tramble and Tayfun Orkus did file an objection to their rate hike with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal but were unsure if that would help.
"We're hoping so but it's hard to say," said Pauline.
Requests for comment about the rent increases from DNV Properties Inc. by phone and email received no immediate response.