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Quebec government finally tables its housing bill

If Bill 31 is passed, it will be easier for landlords to refuse a tenant's request to assign his or her lease.

A landlord whose tenant wants to assign the lease will simply be able to terminate it. At present, a serious reason is required. Some tenants use lease assignments to limit rent increases.

Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau maintains that it is not up to tenants to control rent increases.

"This business of transferring leases or shopping for bargains between tenants is an infringement of landlords' property rights," she said.

The minister said that several landlords have complained about this situation.

The long-awaited Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) bill on housing was tabled on Friday, the last day of the parliamentary session.

RETENTION OF CLAUSE F

The bill also stipulates that landlords of new dwellings will have to indicate in the lease the maximum rent for the next five years.

Clause F -- which already exists in the lease -- allows landlords of such dwellings to raise rents without being subject to the Housing Administrative Tribunal's grid.

The minister did not want to withdraw this clause.

"Clause F is being left in place for five years because in the current economic climate, where builders of housing are much needed, there was no question of introducing a measure that would impose an additional burden on them in terms of the risk they would have to assume," she explained.

The aim of this amendment is to give tenants greater predictability.

"Tenants will know what they are getting into and will be able to decide whether or not to sign the lease," said Duranceau.

LIMITING ABUSIVE EVICTIONS

Quebec also wants to limit abusive evictions with this bill. First of all, if a tenant receives an eviction notice and does not respond before the deadline, the default position will be that the tenant refused the notice. It will then be up to the landlord to demonstrate that the eviction request meets the criteria.

"The law allows the landlord of a dwelling to evict the tenant in order to subdivide, substantially enlarge or change the use of the dwelling," says the Housing Administrative Tribunal website.

"The bill will also require landlords who evict tenants to compensate them with one month's rent for each year of continuous residence in the dwelling, up to a maximum of 24 months. Someone who has lived in a dwelling for 20 years will receive at least 20 months' rent," said Duranceau.

The current compensation is three months. The landlord must also pay reasonable removal costs.

"A tenant who believes that he has been evicted from his home for invalid reasons may appeal to the Housing Administrative Tribunal. At the moment, the onus is on the tenant to prove his point. If the bill is passed, it will be up to the landlord to show that he has acted in accordance with the law. The burden of proof will be on the landlord," the minister pointed out.

She hopes that her bill will be passed before Christmas.

OLD CAPITALIST LAW

Quebec Solidaire has been urging the government to introduce a housing bill. Now that it has, the left-wing party is hardly impressed by Quebec's initiative.

Solidaire MNA Andrés Fontecilla slammed the bill. He considers it to be "a major step backwards" on the issue of lease transfers.

"I'm particularly worried that the minister is taking away the possibility for tenants to transfer their leases," he said.

Even so, he acknowledged that few tenants assign their leases.

Fontecilla criticized the fact that the bill does not contain any measures to regulate rent increases or to prohibit evictions used to turn accommodation into Airbnb.

"The entire system for regulating relations between tenants and landlords today is based on the law of supply and demand; the old capitalist law. It's a market that's completely out of whack. It needs state intervention," he argued.

The Solidaire MNA acknowledged that the measures to limit evictions were a step forward, but "the root of the problem remains: abusive rent increases will continue to exist in Quebec," he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 9, 2023.

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