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5 things P.E.I. renters should know

P.E.I.'s vacancy rate for apartments is at an all-time low. Tenants may be dealing with evictions, rent increases and new landlords, so it's a good time to know the rules surrounding rental properties.

'Landlords need cause to terminate the rental agreement'

Judy Duffy had a difficult time finding a pet-friendly apartment that she could afford. (Laura Meader/CBC)

P.E.I.'s vacancy rate for apartments is at an all-time low. Tenants may be dealing with evictions, rent increases and new landlords, so it's a good time to know the rules surrounding rental properties. 

The relationship between tenants and landlords is governed in P.E.I. by the Rental of Residential Property Act and its regulations.

If you rent, you have the right to privacy, quiet enjoyment and health and safety.

You also need to pay your rent, keep your unit in good condition and follow the terms of your lease if you have one.

There are a number of reasons a landlord can evict a tenant, including major renovations and if you haven't paid your rent. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Here are some basic rules that are good to know about rental agreements, as laid out by the rentals division of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC).

1. When can you be evicted?

There are a number of reasons why a landlord can evict a tenant:

  • You haven't paid your rent.
  • You're a threat to others or too noisy.
  • You interfere with other tenants.
  • There are too many people living in the unit.
  • Landlord plans extensive renovations.
  • Landlord has a family member moving in.

Even with an accepted reason, the landlord must give the tenant 30 to 60 days notice in most cases. 

2. When can the landlord raise the rent?

Landlords must give three months' notice before increasing the rent, and rent can only usually only be increased once a year. 

Rents on P.E.I. are controlled and can usually be raised just once a year. (Laura Meader/CBC)

P.E.I. has rent controls and the increases are set by IRAC every year. In 2018, allowable increases were 1.75 per cent for heated units and 1.5 per cent for unheated ones. For example, rent on an $800 heated apartment could increase to $814.

In 2019, the allowable increases will be the same, except a two per cent increase will be allowed for units heated by oil.

Landlords must get permission from the rentals division of IRAC for larger increases and prove that the increase is justified. The rentals office gets about 12 applications a year asking for increases due to renovations.

"It is a very vigorous process," says Jennifer Perry, acting director of residential property with IRAC. "You have to provide us with a lot of detailed information."  

"We're talking about increases between 10 and 30 per cent, is what landlords are coming for," she said.

3. How can you appeal a rent increase or eviction?

If you're a tenant and you want to challenge an eviction notice or a rent increase, you need to act fast.

You must contact IRAC within 10 days of receiving a notice, and fill out the appropriate form, available on the IRAC website. There is often a $10 fee for filing a complaint. 

Tenants are responsible for paying their rent until the end of their lease agreement, which is usually a year. (Laura Meader/CBC)

You must pay the rent the landlord asks for, even if it's been raised. You can't withhold it for any reason, even if you believe they're not fulfilling their part of the lease agreement.

If you don't pay your rent, you risk eviction. Most of the cases the rentals office handles involve unpaid rent. 

"If it's non-payment of rent, you can be served as quickly as the day after you don't pay your rent," Perry said.

Tenants who want to move out must provide a month's notice if they don't have a written lease. If they do have a written lease, they are responsible for the rent until the end of the lease agreement, which is usually a year. 

"Renovictions" — where tenants are evicted because the landlord is doing renovations — are not a given, though. 

Perry said her office recently turned down two applications for evictions from landlords who planned renovations that weren't significant enough for the tenant to leave.

"I think the system works," she said. 

4. No-pets clause

A landlord can have a no-pets clause in a rental agreement.

However, landlords cannot refuse to rent to you if you have a valid service animal, as identified by P.E.I.'s Human Rights Commission.

If you have lived in a unit where pets were allowed and a new owner says pets must go, your rights are grandfathered in. 

5. What role does IRAC play in settling disputes? 

If you didn't sign a lease, a verbal agreement is considered to be the same as a written lease, according to Perry.

Staff with the rentals division of IRAC have forms dealing with leases, appeals and evictions. (Laura Meader/CBC)

A landlord or a tenant can ask the rentals division of IRAC to hear their dispute. These are heard at the IRAC offices, and both parties are notified in advance.

The hearings are similar to a court case where evidence is presented and witnesses must answer questions. If you don't agree with the decision you can appeal, and those appeals can also be taken to P.E.I. Supreme Court. 

If you have been evicted and see your apartment listed as an Airbnb, you can file an application for a review with IRAC, and the commission would investigate.

But Perry said her office has not yet dealt with any such complaints. If it did get a complaint involving Airbnb, she said her office would contact the landlord about the allegation and schedule a hearing.

Perry couldn't say whether her office could demand a unit be reverted to a long-term rental.

For more information on rules for renters, check out IRAC's website, www.irac.pe.ca/rental, or call the director of residential property at 902-892-3051. 

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About the Author

Laura Meader

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.