PEI

Proposed tenant eviction rules coming too late for these P.E.I. renters

A group of soon-to-be-evicted tenants is saying proposed changes to P.E.I.'s residential tenancy legislation are coming too late.

'People are getting put out of their homes'

Tenants of 24 Water Street Marlene Gallant, Dylan Menzie and Dave Neatby say they're being evicted for renovations without the option to move back in. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

A group of soon-to-be-evicted tenants is saying proposed changes to P.E.I.'s residential tenancy legislation are coming too late.

The nine residents at 24 Water Street in Charlottetown were given an eviction notice this month, telling them they would need to move out of their apartments by April 30 because of work being done to the building.

The letter outlines plans for a building that will be constructed next door, and that in order to move ahead with those plans, a fire-escape and sprinkler system needs to be installed to 24 Water Street.

That requires drilling holes inside the apartment units and the property manager, Jon Locke, said tests have shown there is asbestos inside the walls, meaning no one can be in there while work is ongoing.

'Give us more time'

Several of the tenants say, though they were given the required notice, as long-term residents they wish they had been given more time. 

"I was pretty shocked and pretty full of anxiety," said Dave Neatby, who's lived in the building for five years. 

"The big question is, 'Where am I going to live?' because I'm on a disability pension at the moment. There's not much out there that I can afford and there's not very much time to find something."

"Give us more time to find affordable housing,"  said long-time resident Marlene Gallant.

"There is nothing out there for the normal person ... It's crazy."

Proposed changes come a day later

The notice came just a day before government announced proposed changes to the laws that govern residential rentals. With the changes, landlords would be required to provide six months' notice to tenants facing such an eviction, up from the current 60 days.

Tenants who were evicted would also have to be provided the right of first refusal when the unit reopens, an offer residents at 24 Water Street said hasn't been put on the table for them.

Property manager Jon Locke says renters need to be out of the building during renovations because there is asbestos in the walls. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"We've asked to stay, you know, to return to the units after. And I mean whatever rent increase IRAC gives them ... that's fine, but they won't even give us the chance to come back into the unit," Neatby said.

"It's going to be very difficult specifically to find a place that's safe and a place that's walking distance of my psychiatrist or all the other things that I need to do. I can't afford a car. So I think it can be very difficult." 

'It's really hard'

The tenants said it's unlikely they'll find anything as affordable in downtown Charlottetown.

"It's just amazing and it's also super affordable, which you know, based on a musician's salary, is hard to come by," said Dylan Menzie, who also calls 24 Water Street home.

And though Menzie can afford to move, "there's a lot of people in this building that I don't know where they're going to go," he said.

That's the case for Gallant, who has lived in her apartment for 17 years. 

"It's really hard. I've been looking around and there's nothing available out there. It's really hard to find something in our price range," Gallant said. 

Property manager responds

In a statement sent to CBC, Locke said "the landlord is in regular communication with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to ensure we are compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act." 

The statement also read, "we very much empathize with the tenants at 24 Water St. We have provided more than the mandatory notification period ... and have been working to help find existing tenants other apartments or accommodation arrangements. We will continue to do so and assist in any way possible." 

Locke did not say when work would begin on the building, if there would be rent increases to the units, or if current tenants would have first right of refusal. 

Appeal to IRAC

Neatby, Menzie, Gallant said they and other tenants plan to fight the eviction. They are making an appeal to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.

Gallant, Neatby, Menzie and other tenants plan to appeal the eviction with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Their hope is to be given the chance to move back in after work on the property is complete or be given more time to move. 

"This could happen to you, you know, and until people start fighting back it's going to keep on happening. People are getting put out of their homes," said Gallant.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Williams is a journalist for CBC News based in Ottawa. She has also worked in P.E.I. and Toronto. She is part of the team that won a 2021 Canadian Association of Journalists national award for investigative journalism. Write in confidence to Nicole.Williams@cbc.ca.

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