New tenants' rights coalition hopeful for reform

·2 min read

A new tenants rights group in the province hopes to help renters navigate the rules and regulations of renting, and work to change those rules.

"New Brunswick is far behind as compared to other provinces in terms of what kinds of protections are afforded to tenants," said one of the group's organizers, Aditya Rao.

The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights was formed by a group of renters.

"Tenants in New Brunswick have far fewer rights than almost anywhere else in the country. We've seen this to be quite clear over the last several weeks with stories about rent increases and evictions," said Rao.

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The coalition is currently calling for a moratorium on all evictions during the pandemic.

In Thursday's news conference, Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the number of evictions renters have faced this year.

"They're currently lower than in previous years," he said.

While Service New Brunswick has received 1,525 eviction requests in the first 10 months of this year (2,518 in 2019 and 1,688 in 2018), it doesn't track lease terminations, which are used in many cases to remove a tenant, for reasons such as renovations.

Rao said it's a practice he's been hearing is used often. The group wants to institute regulations that would ensure inspections are done regularly at rental properties.

"So that they cannot get to the point that they're so dilapidated that tenants need to be unhoused in order for the apartment to be fixed," he said.

Higgs said his government is in talks with landlords in an effort to understand the rental situation in the province. Low housing availability has become a big problem in the province's three major cities, with Fredericton's vacancy rate at about 1.4 per cent.

"We know that there are new buildings going up," said Higgs. "We know that renovations are going on in apartments. But we're being told by the landlords that … the rental rate increases are low. We will pursue to understand that before we act on a policy that may have been necessary somewhere else, and may, or may not be necessary here."

Rao said the coalition will be launching policy proposals over the next few weeks.

"We're calling on the government to significantly overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act with a view to protecting tenants rights, including by instituting rent control, of course, but also by creating an eviction prevention program, among other things."

On its website, the group is asking people to write their MLA's to add some of these reforms to the Act.