More changes could come to Residential Tenancies Act, says minister

·2 min read
A sign reading 'Apartment for Rent' is seen in this file photo. Amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act are being debated at the Nova Scotia Legislature. (CBC - image credit)
A sign reading 'Apartment for Rent' is seen in this file photo. Amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act are being debated at the Nova Scotia Legislature. (CBC - image credit)

Services Nova Scotia Minister Colton Leblanc says he's open to making further changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.

Leblanc was responding a day after several people raised concerns about the act during a meeting of the legislature's law amendments committee Monday. Presenters representing both tenants and landlords called for better enforcement of the act, while concerns were also raised about fixed-term leases being a workaround for the province's cap on rent increases.

Speaking to reporters at Province House on Tuesday, Leblanc said provisions his government introduced last week to protect renters and try to address the ongoing housing crisis are not the final word on the matter.

"Some of the ongoing issues that have been identified, whether it be fixed leases or [something] other, they are a priority as we continue to modernize this act," he said.

"This is a first step, again, in the early days of our government. Once we pass these amendments it doesn't mean that that chapter is closed … There's ongoing amendments that are going to be looked at for future sessions of this House."

Concerns about fixed-term leases

Amendments to the act currently being debated in the House relate to extending protections to renters, particularly in renoviction cases where tenants are evicted from their unit so it can be renovated and put back on the market for a much higher rent.

New Democrat MLA Susan Leblanc said she shares that concern, and is seeing it play out regularly in her district of Dartmouth North.

She said she's hearing from some people who are being incorrectly told they must sign a fixed-term lease when their existing lease comes due, while others who are new renters aren't being given the option to sign any other kind of lease.

"Which means that every year when that lease turns over, there can be an exorbitant rental increase," she said.

"[The landlord] wouldn't have to stay within the two per cent rent cap. It's bad."

The minister said there are also ongoing discussions within his department about the potential of more enforcement and compliance options as it relates to the Residential Tenancies Act.

During Monday's committee meeting, advocates for both landlords and tenants called on the government to consider establishing some type of unit to focus on the subject.

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