Lack of data on evictions called serious problem for P.E.I. tenants

An Island group working to protect the rights of tenants says the P.E.I. government needs to do a better job of tracking eviction numbers. 

'A lot of people just aren’t quite sure of their rights,' says advocate

Aimee Power says nobody knows how many evictions are happening on P.E.I. because there are public records only when they are challenged at the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

An Island group working to protect the rights of tenants says the P.E.I. government should be doing a better job of tracking eviction numbers. 

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) keeps statistics only in cases where tenants have challenged their eviction. Nobody knows how many tenants are being evicted if no protest is filed. 

"A lot of people just aren't quite sure of their rights," said Aimee Power, with the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing. 

"We just hear things anecdotally when people contact us, if they're aware of us. 

"It's leaving so much information in the wind that would be really helpful for developing policy and helpful for tenants and for knowing the reasons and trends for evictions that are happening in P.E.I." 

David McQuillan, the tenant support worker with Community Legal Information, says almost 40 per cent of the calls he handled last year on the group's rental inquiry line had to do with evictions, accounting for 90 of 240 calls. 

"It's really difficult to know how many evictions are happening on P.E.I. each year," he agreed. "The current system places the burden of challenging evictions on the tenant."

P.E.I.'s rental market has tightened considerably in the past few years, so people being evicted can have difficulty finding a new home. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Having the full statistical picture "could help our lawmakers identify problems in the rental market and set their priorities," McQuillan said. 

The only valid reasons for an eviction on the Island at the moment are:

  • Non-payment of rent.
  • Breach of the rental agreement.
  • The landlord needing the space back for personal or family use.
  • Demolition of the building.
  • Renovations to the unit. 

"Some people think that if someone buys the house that they're living in they're automatically evicted — but that's not true," Power told Island Morning's Laura Chapin.

Sometimes there are some bad-faith evictions out there.— Aimee Power

"It's only if they are going to move into it. If they are going to continue renting this building and not doing any renovations, the tenant should be staying in that building for the same rent and a lot of people don't know that." 

Database of evictions called for

She would like to see officials establish a database of all eviction notices served on the Island, with measures in place to shield people's privacy, so that a more detailed picture can be examined. 

"Sometimes there are some bad-faith evictions out there," Power said, with landlords saying they are evicting a tenant in order to move in themselves, but not following through on that. 

The province is in the process of updating its legislation in a new Residential Tenancy Act, with a view to having a final draft before MLAs this fall.

"Currently, there is no requirement for tenants or landlords to register documents (lease agreements, eviction notices, etc.) with IRAC,"  a provincial government spokesperson said in an email to CBC News. 

"The Rental of Residential Properties Act is a complaints-based system that provides both tenants and landlords an avenue to have an independent review of situations between a landlord and tenant."

The email said the first draft of the new act underwent consultations in March 2020, and didn't include a provision for mandatory registration of evictions.

"We will be giving Islanders another opportunity to provide their feedback on the new draft before we bring a final draft of new legislation to the legislature."

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Laura Chapin


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