Tenancies Act reviewed 3 years ago, collecting dust: Gerry Rogers

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Tenancies Act reviewed 3 years ago, collecting dust: Gerry Rogers

In 2014, NDP MHA Gerry Rogers told the media that changes to the Residential Tenancies Act could not wait.

Three years later, the province is still waiting — while fluctuations in rent have put people in danger of homelessness, a one-sided system has left landlords in the hole and zero oversight on boarding homes has left tenants paying for hazardous housing.

On Tuesday, Service NL Minister Perry Trimper promised a review of the Act.

All well and good, said Rogers, except for one thing: that review is already done, and has been collecting dust for three years.

"Neither the past government, nor the current one, has done anything about this," the housing critic said.

The Progressive Conservative government launched a review of the Act in 2012, when Paul Davis headed up the Service NL department.

Consultations spanned the province for two months.

Officials heard from landlords, tenants, non-governmental organizations and more. The sessions were well-attended and were heated by passionate responses and suggestions.

The review and legislation scan wrapped up in 2014, but the final report was never finished.

None of the information from those consultations made it as far as a recommendation, let alone translating into legislation change.

And now, the Liberal government has said it is gearing up to do it all over again.

"The previous consultations and jurisdictional scan were done in 2012," Trimper said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Over the past five years there have been changes in the marketplace, and our intention is to update this information in a way that includes additional opportunity for input from the public."

Rogers welcomes the initiative, but said a whole new review doesn't seem necessary.

"I do not believe much has changed since the provincewide consultation was done," she said.

Tour of province revealed major issues

In a What We Heard document issued after the consultations, problems were raised with at least 24 of the Act's 48 rules sections — including all nine sections that deal with terminations and evictions.

There also was significant feedback on the lack of legislation for boarding houses and several suggestions about the landlord's requirement to store a tenant's abandoned items for 60 days after eviction.

"It was one of the most thorough consultations we've had in a number of years and the past government did nothing with that information," said Rogers.

"And so here we have a current government that's been in power for over a year, and still has done nothing with it."

The consultations also dealt with rent control, which was a major issue in 2012 amidst a changing economy.

Rental prices near places like Bull Arm, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City saw major increases.

Under current legislation, a landlord can make one rent increase per year as long as they give three months notice for a month-to-month lease, or eight weeks notice for a week-to-week lease.

There is no limit on the percentage landlords can hike their prices.

Another review, more recommendations

The review brought forth suggestions to cap rental increases at a rate between two and 10 per cent annually.

Despite the extensive feedback, Trimper said he is not tempted to pick up the Tories' work and run with it.

"Officials within Service NL will undertake this process and prepare recommendations for how to proceed," he said. 

"More information about the type of consultations that will be undertaken will be provided as these decisions are made."

For Rogers, that decision is baffling.

"Why they would ignore that is totally beyond me," she said. "It's a waste to not look at the input and knowledge that they gathered."