MONTREAL -- Housing advocates are demanding the province freeze residential rents for 2021.

Regroupement des committees logement et associations de tenantes du Québec (RCLALQ) says Housing Minister Andrée Laforest needs to freeze rents to help those struggling to make their monthly payments through the pandemic.

A rent freeze means landlords cannot raise rental prices on their leases for a determined period.

RCLALQ says it recently carried out a study showing that the average rent of a 4 1/2 in Quebec is $1,032. For a three-bedroom apartment, you can expect to pay $1,300.

Maxime Roy-Allard, spokesperson for RCLALQ, says that’s an unrealistic price for low-income households, especially as many tenants have lost vital sources of income through the pandemic.

According to Roy-Allard, last year marked a strong increase in eviction requests, especially from new owners towards long-term tenants.

If a landlord wants to increase the rent of their apartment, Roy-Allard says it’s a common approach to evict their tenants in order to lease the lodging to someone else at a higher price.

RCLALQ says that even disputable rent increases are legal if the tenant accepts it.

In Quebec, landlords are free to request a rent increase that they deem “just and reasonable.” However, tenants are also allowed to refuse the increase within one month of receiving the request.

However, it is a right which is rarely acted on, either because tenants don’t know their rights, or because they fear repercussions, according to RCLALQ.

-- This report by the Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 20, 2021.