PEI

Fiona will increase homelessness on P.E.I., housing advocate predicts

Tenants across P.E.I. have been trying to reach their landlords over the last few days, notifying them of damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona and asking when it might get fixed.

Tenants have legal avenues for getting repairs done, but they can take time

Trees fallen down on house
Many homes suffered serious damage from post-tropical storm Fiona. (Mikee Mutuc/CBC)

Tenants across P.E.I. have been trying to reach their landlords over the last few days, notifying them of damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona and asking when it might get fixed.

This is an important first step, said Andrew Whitehead of Renting P.E.I., an initiative of Community Legal Information. While it is the landlord's responsibility to make repairs, it is the tenant's responsibility to notify the landlord about damage.

If tenants are concerned about serious damage that could lead to health and safety issues, they can contact the landlord provincial environmental health office, which can inspect and make recommendations.

If the unit is not liveable and can't be made liveable quickly, the tenant can apply to the P.E.I. Rental Office to be released from the lease.

"This is only, basically, granted in extreme circumstances," said Whitehead.

"A hurricane blowing a hole in your wall or blowing the roof off your home would be an extreme circumstance."

Crews replace a power pole on Euston Street in downtown Charlottetown after hurricane Fiona. (Anthony Davis/CBC)

It doesn't have to be that extreme, he said. It could be water coming in that poses a risk of mould developing, or other situations that don't align with Public Health Act regulations.

Possible remedies from the rental office also include a return of rent or an order that certain repairs be done.

But Whitehead noted the process can be slow, and coming to an agreement with your landlord will likely be faster and less stressful.

'Accelerating the housing crisis'

In the current climate, however, with housing in short supply, getting out of your lease is not necessarily a good solution, says Connor Kelly, tenant network coordinator for the Cooper institute.

It's one thing to say it's possible to get out of your lease. It's another thing to find another place to live.

Connor Kelly is the tenant network co-ordinator for the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing and the Cooper Institute. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"It's already incredibly hard to find vacant housing that's within people's budget. Now, it's just going to be even worse. It could make a lot more people homeless," said Kelly.

"It's accelerating the housing crisis a lot, by removing the housing."

You shouldn't be homeless just because there was a storm. That doesn't make sense.— Connor Kelly

The future is uncertain for many. Kelly believes regulations have to be changed to create stronger, faster remedies for tenants.

"You shouldn't be homeless just because there was a storm. That doesn't make sense."

If a unit becomes uninhabitable, landlords should be responsible for housing the tenant somewhere, said Kelly, and that should be written into the new Residential Tenancy Act the provincial government has been drafting.

With files from Island Morning

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