As Quebec seeks to cut rental board wait times, tenants and landlords have gripes
The day after Quebec's housing minister tabled legislation to update the rental board, groups representing both tenants and landlords say the legislation will not do enough.
The board holds hearings from tenants and landlords concerning challenges with rental properties, and although the number of cases it sees has dropped by 10,000 over the past 15 years, the delay to be seen has increased to an average of 16 months.
Housing Minister Andrée Laforest tabled legislation Wednesday that would hire more judges and staff for the board, and increase the powers of staff members at the rental board. She anticipated this would cut the wait time to two months.
Tenants' rights groups, though, said Laforest missed an opportunity to level the playing field, saying landlords win the vast majority of cases.
“We want a complete reform of the rental board, to be changed completely in order to protect tenants more,” said Maxime Roy-Allard, spokesperson for tenants’ rights group RACLALQ.
They say new investments in affordable housing are needed to keep low income tenants from turning to the rental board for protection – particularly at a time when Montreal's vacancy rate is only 1.9% and rents are on the rise.
They also want mandatory rent control so tenants don't have to deal with rent increases they consider unfair.
“If landlords want more money in the rent increase, they should go to the tribunal to the rental board and make their case,” said Roy-Allard.
Daniel Crespo, member of the Association of Progressive Jurists, said there should be more changes to the civil code.
"What actually guides the judges is the Civil Code of Quebec, the chapter about housing rental, and over there we have 39 years of practice. I think the experts know what to change but I don't think we have the political will," said Crespo.
Hans Brouillette of CORPIQ, the Real Estate Owners Corporation of Quebec, also said the bill falls short.
“It's not a major reform that gives landlords and even tenants what we expect from this tribunal,” said Brouillette.
Brouillette said 60% of complaints are for late payment of rent or for eviction notices, adding that it’s not uncommon for a tenant to have left a building before the complaint about a rent increase or similar matter has been handled.
“Even if you have a decision that is favourable to you, then you are not able to enforce it, because the tenant has no money to pay, so the perception of landlords is that the system doesn't work,” he said.
He wants landlords to be able to ask for security deposits, like they do in Toronto.
Both sides can agree on this: they hope Laforest will listen to their concerns before the bill is put to a vote.