P.E.I. government too slow with new Residential Tenancy Act, Opposition says
'This boils down to housing being a human right'
The Official Opposition, as well as the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, want to know when the Island might see the proposed Residential Tenancy Act.
The proposed act has been in the works since 2019 and aims to provide more protection for Island landlords and tenants. It would replace the 30-year-old Rental of Residential Properties Act currently being used.
Karla Bernard, Opposition critic for social development and housing, says she has met with the department and was disappointed to hear the legislation is not likely to move forward in 2021.
"I would like to see the legislation come forward this fall," she said. "The act is very very old, it was created to protect the rights of tenants. And so what we are seeing now is an outdated piece of legislation that's really causing a lot of damage to tenants."
Right now, Bernard said, tenants have to identify illegal rent increases and take the issue to IRAC to correct it. But the proposed Residential Tenancy Act would include rules to better protect tenants against illegal rent increases.
"If there is someone contravening the act there is administrative penalties and there is mechanisms for them to do that," she said.
Bernard said she would also like to see a rental registry created.
"In order to have rent control and enforce that properly people need to know what the former tenants have paid."
Bernard said she would like to see Brad Trivers, minister of social development and housing, have the legislation ready for the fall sitting of the legislature.
We'd like something stronger than that, where tenancy doesn't end during a renovation.— Connor Kelly
"What is important here is that we get the legislation in place and look at how we enforce regulations," she said.
Bernard said she hears story after story of tenants in Charlottetown and across P.E.I. not having their rights properly protected.
"This boils down to housing being a human right and there are so many different groups of people who are being forced out of their homes," she said.
'People need more protection'
Connor Kelly, tenant co-ordinator for the P.E.I. Fight For Affordable Housing, said the group has been trying to set up a time to meet with Trivers for a couple months, but times haven't lined up due to members of the group's work schedules and the minister's availability.
"The sooner it can get passed the better, especially in the same shape as this first draft, just because people need more protections," he said.
"There were protections around evictions, I think renovictions as well."
One of the proposed changes under the new act would address the issue of renovictions — landlords evicting a tenant under the premise of conducting repairs or renovations to a unit.
With the changes, landlords would be required to provide six months' notice to tenants facing such an eviction, up from the current two months. The renovations would also have to be extensive enough as to require a building permit and for the unit to be vacant.
Kelly said in the proposed legislation tenants would have the right of first refusal, meaning the tenant would get the option to rent the renovated apartment before anyone else — but Kelly said he'd like to see that go a step further.
"We'd like something stronger than that where tenancy doesn't end during a renovation," he said.
Draft of regulations expected in early 2022
The legislation also provides some new measures to help landlords deal with problem tenants. The number of days before a tenant could be evicted after being provided a non-payment notice of rent would decrease from 20 to 14.
Islanders were encouraged to provide input on the proposed Residential Tenancy Act in February of 2020, through written submissions and public consultations in March of the same year.
In a written statement sent to CBC News on Thursday, officials with the province's Department of Social Development and Housing said COVID-19 "interrupted" some public consultations on the act.
"Consultation is currently underway," the statement read. "Key informant consultations are tentatively scheduled for August, and potential public engagement sessions in September."
The plan is to have a consultation bill shared publicly this fall. The bill would be introduced during the fall sitting and regulations would then need to be drafted after the act is complete, according to department officials.
"We anticipate having draft regulations ready by February 2022," officials said.
However, from initial conversations with both tenants and landlords, the department said, both groups have suggested there is "room for adjustments" in the new act being proposed.