PEI

How IRAC makes its decisions on rental disputes in P.E.I.

How quickly tenants and landlords get a hearing with P.E.I.'s Island Regulatory Appeals Commission depends on how serious the complaint is, says the director of residential rental property.

'We are basically the small claims court for residential rental property,' says commission director

Jennifer Perry, director of residential rental property for IRAC, says her department received 826 inquiries in January. (CBC News:Compass)

How quickly tenants and landlords get a hearing with the Island Regulatory Appeals Commission depends on how serious the complaint is, says IRAC's director of residential rental property.

Jennifer Perry says her department does triage much like the ER at a hospital. A hearing for an eviction, for example, is usually held within seven to 10 days, she said.

"If it's an eviction, it's heard much more quickly than if it was a dispute over your security deposit. That might take a few months."

In December, some people at a public forum on affordable housing in Charlottetown expressed frustration with IRAC and questioned its effectiveness. Thursday on CBC News: Compass, Perry tried to address some of those issues and help explain IRAC's role in tenant-landlord relations on P.E.I. 

'Busy all the time'

She said her department within IRAC has received a higher volume of disputes since the vacancy rate dropped to near zero per cent on the Island. She said her department had 6,600 inquiries in 2017, 8,400 in 2018, and 826 already in the month of January this year.

"We are busy all the time," she said.

"We are basically the small claims court for residential rental property. We look after all sorts of rental disputes."

If you get a notice of eviction for any reason, doing nothing is not a good choice.— Jennifer Perry

About half of the hearings are for evictions, Perry said.

If either party is unsatisfied with the result from her department, she said they can appeal to an IRAC panel, and then to the Supreme Court.

Perry said tenants can be evicted for reasons such as not paying rent, partying too loudly, smoking in a non-smoking unit or what's become known as "renoviction," where a landlord evicts a tenant so they can renovate the building.

If tenants want to contest an eviction notice, she said, they should do it as soon as they receive the notice, not after they have vacated the apartment.

"If you get a notice of eviction for any reason, doing nothing is not a good choice," she said. "Once you've been evicted, if you've not done anything it's pretty hard to unring the bell."

Guided by act

She said IRAC doesn't work on behalf of the tenant or landlord, but rather is guided by P.E.I.'s Rental of Residential Property Act.

"You get an eviction for non-payment of rent, you'd come in and you'd speak to us and we would tell you pay your rent in 10 days or you're evicted in 20," she said.

"If it was a party, it would be a 30-day notice."

Renovictions require 60 days notice, she said.

"With a renoviction we have a very high threshold, meaning is it in good faith, and are the renovations severe enough to displace the tenant? So it's a very rigorous process that the landlord has to prove."

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With files from CBC News: Compass

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