P.E.I. groups applaud proposed changes to residential tenancy legislation

Some Island advocacy groups say they welcome the suggested changes in draft legislation for the Residential Tenancy Act, which was released Thursday.

The new legislation would replace the 30-year-old Rental of Residential Properties Act, and aims to provide additional protections for Island landlords and tenants.

"Mostly we're very excited to see that the government is including public consultation as a part of this process," said Hannah Gehrels, a member of the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing group. "We're really excited to participate."

Under the new legislation, changes have been proposed to deal with the issue of renovictions — landlords evicting a tenant under the premise of conducting repairs or renovations to a unit.

Two months' notice to try to find somewhere with our low vacancy rate is almost impossible. — Hannah Gehrels, P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing

With the changes, landlords would be required to provide six months' notice to tenants facing such an eviction, up from the current 60 days. The renovations would also have to be extensive enough as to require a building permit and for the unit to be vacant.

Tenants who had to leave an apartment because of renovations would also have the right of first refusal when it goes back on the market, under the proposed legislation.

Gehrels said those changes are responding to a real need in the community.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

"Hearing people who are renovicted quite regularly and only given two months' notice to try to find somewhere with our low vacancy rate is almost impossible," Gehrels said.

"It puts people in a really, really tough situation. We are glad to see some things responding to that in these proposed changes."

Changes for people experiencing domestic violence

Another proposed change in the draft legislation would allow victims of domestic violence to exit a lease agreement early, after providing at least one month's notice.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

That would bring those rules in line with other provinces.

"It's very damaging for people to have bad references in the rental community," said Danya O'Malley, executive director of P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services.

"So if they have a lease and they break it or they're worried about breaking it — they may be worried about that impacting their ability to rent housing down the road."

O'Malley said the proposed changes, if put in place, will remove barriers and support people moving on from abuse. She said it can decrease the overall risk that people experience as a result of living in an unsafe situation.

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