Despite a province-wide rental freeze for 2021, Windsorite Amanda Younan says she's "angry" that her landlord is trying to increase her rent for March.
Younan, who has been renting a home off of Erie Street for the last seven years, says she was notified three weeks ago that her rent will increase by 1.5 per cent. But in October, the province implemented a rental freeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The freeze prevents rental increases for most tenants in 2021.
When Younan emailed her landlord about the freeze, she said they told her it only applied to people on social assistance or those who have occupied a residence after 2018.
Yet, on the Ontario government's website, it says the rent freeze applies to most tenants, including those living in:
Rented houses, apartments and condos (including units occupied for the first time for residential purposes after Nov. 15, 2018).
Care homes (including retirement homes).
Mobile home parks.
Land lease communities.
Rent-geared-to-income units and market rent units in community housing.
Affordable housing units created through federally and/or provincially funded programs.
Worries others might be 'taken advantage of'
Younan currently pays $900 for her space. Although she acknowledges that the increase is minimal — about $13 — she says it's the "principle of following the rules."
"I think everyone just needs to know about it because they're going to be taken advantage of," she said. "I don't want [my landlord] to retaliate against us for anything like we're just trying to follow the rules. They should have to follow the rules like everybody else."
Younan said she went to the Landlord and Tenant Board, which confirmed that she shouldn't be subject to the increase.
But Younan said her landlord has not responded to her email that includes the board's response.
CBC News has reviewed the emails between Younan and her landlord.
Home 2 Home Properties Inc. is the property management company for Younan's rental. Marie Latif with Home 2 Home Properties Inc. spoke with CBC News, though she did not want to do a formal interview.
Latif said that the tenant does not have to pay the rent increase, though Younan says they have not told her that.
Few exemptions to rent freeze
In an email to CBC News, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing confirmed that the government's passing of bill 204, Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, 2020, means that most rents can not increase next year.
"There are very few exemptions to this freeze," the statement reads.
Exceptions to this include above guideline increases approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board before Oct. 1, 2020. These can still be approved by the board and applied to 2021 rents if they are for "costs related to eligible capital repairs and security services, but not if they are for extraordinary increases in municipal taxes and charges," the website states.
Additionally, the website notes that tenants and landlords can still agree on rent increases in exchange for another service or facility, such as air conditioning or parking.
The rent freeze is expected to end on Dec. 31, 2021, and landlords are to give "proper 90 days' notice beforehand for a rent increase that takes effect in 2022," the website states.
As a result of this, Legal Assistance of Windsor lawyer Anna Colombo told CBC News that anyone given notice of a rent increase does not have to pay it for 2021, regardless of their income level.
"[Younan] might want to have a conversation with her landlord ... and communicate that she's not going to be paying that rent increase that those aren't allowed until January 2022 and again providing that proper 90 day notice, within the proper amount and the proper form," Colombo said.
MPP says many similar complaints have been heard
Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky says Younan is not alone and that what she has experienced is "very common."
"It goes back to the fact that the government needs to do a better job of ensuring that the tenants know their rights and that those rights are respected and enforced. But also that landlords know the rules and are clear on what it is that they can and can't do as far as the rent increases come or evictions and things like that," she said.
Gretzky attributes uncertainty on this to the government failing to appropriately and consistently communicate.
"What we've seen with many government announcements and decisions lately is it tends to be very fluid so things change and people get confused or direction is unclear," she said.
She said tenants should continue to voice their concerns or issues to their local MPP.