A rent registry for P.E.I., launched privately by a housing advocate, has gathered information on the rent paid on hundreds of apartments in the province.
Darcie Lanthier launched the My Old Apartment registry in mid-February as a response to the provincial legislature passing a motion to create a registry back in 2019.
"They promised to do it almost two years ago, and they did not," Lanthier told CBC's Kerry Campbell on Mainstreet.
"It took us two weeks. I'm going to say not even one work week of labour went into making a registry. So the fact it would take government years to do it is just appalling, when they know it's the only thing that is letting this carry on the way it has been.
"We just stepped up to do it, to prove that it could be done."
Rents are controlled on P.E.I., with an allowable annual increase set by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC). Those increases are attached to the apartment, not its tenant, and rents cannot be raised arbitrarily in the event of a change of tenant or landlord.
Landlords who feel they can justify an increase above the general annual percentage may apply to IRAC for an exception.
Recent analysis of data from CMHC suggests rents are going up faster than legally allowed, and the provincial housing minister has acknowledged it is a problem. The Residential Rental Association of P.E.I., a group of Island landlords, has questioned the accuracy of the CMHC data, however.
"We have great, great legislation. The regulations are, you know, really some of the most protective, I found out, in North America because I've been talking to people from everywhere," said Lanthier.
"The regulations are great, except there's no means to enforce them."
Under the legislation, the only enforcement measure is a complaint to IRAC from a current tenant.
However, without a rental registry in place, the only way a renter can know the legal rent for an apartment is to ask the previous tenant, and there may be no opportunity to do that.
In a tight housing market, tenants may also simply accept illegal rent increases, because they feel they can't do better anywhere else.
As of Wednesday morning, My Old Apartment was listing what tenants have listed as rents they paid on 570 rental units. The large majority, 509, are in Charlottetown, which makes sense given 85 per cent of the province's rentals are located in the capital.
The crowd-sourced database represents 8.6 per cent of the units in the province, and 8.9 per cent of the ones in Charlottetown.
Information on the database is uploaded by former tenants, who are asked to upload documentation about the rent they paid if they have it. Lanthier said that documentation can be provided to current tenants on request if they wish to lodge a complaint with IRAC.
Lanthier said she has been hearing from people that they have had success in getting their rents reduced with the help of the registry, but the information she has on the number of cases and amounts saved is anecdotal.
Housing Minister Brad Trivers has said he is committed to creating an official provincial rent registry, but said the earliest that could happen would be towards the end of the year or perhaps even in early 2022.
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