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Rent prices in some Quebec cities are out of control, tenant group says


Moving into a new apartment anywhere in Quebec now comes with some price tags that haven't been seen before and tenant groups say they have observed a pattern of rent increases that show the market is, in their view, "nightmarish."

"The most staggering numbers are outside of big city centres. It is much higher than the level of inflation," said Cedric Dussault, a member of the Regroupement des Comités Logement et Associations de Locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).

Using data found in classified ads for apartments offered for rent on platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji, the group showed in a new report that in cities such as Trois-Rivières and Rimouski, property owners now demand 50 per cent more than five years ago, even though the inflation rate reached 17 per cent in that same period.

In Montreal, rents have increased by 27 per cent in four years despite a boom in housing construction.

One of the issues raised by housing activists is that despite the construction of more and more apartments by the private sector, it did not lead to lower prices for the older units.

A snapshot of rental price increases based on classified ads in parts of Quebec. (Source: CTV News)

"The trickle-down theory doesn't work in economics, and it doesn't work [and] it works even less, especially in Quebec," Dussault said.

The most common explanation, he says, is that "when someone leaves the dwelling because there is no rent control, automatically, we lose this dwelling as an affordable unit. It's the data that we have done in the past five years are clear when there's a change of tenants."

The organization says landlords rarely respect a clause that forces them to reveal what the previous tenants paid, leaving them free to jack up prices and ignore annual guidelines set by the rental board. Despite strong tenant laws, housing activists say landlords have found loopholes over the years and openly take advantage of the fact tenants won't complain for fear of being denied an apartment. Landlords reject the accusations, even if they demand a loosening of rental laws.

"The rents in Quebec are among one of the cheapest in Canada. So we don't really give much weight to this report because it is their own, you know, analysis," said Melissa Lemieux, of the Quebec Landlords Association (APQ).

Landlords base their statistics on those provided by the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation, which bases its market prices on the average rents paid by tenants. RCLALQ says prices advertised on the current market offer a more accurate portrait.

Landlords have long complained that Quebec laws and rental board rules are too stringent, and discourage businesses from investing in housing. Obtaining a construction permit and getting a good return on investment is often impossible, says Lemieux.

"At the end of the day, clients who want to build buildings are just like, forget it, it's too much work," she said.

They also complain that existing rules on renovations, which tenants deride as "renovictions," also discourage them from investing in older buildings. Tenants say renovations are used as an excuse to get rid of low-rent tenants, while landlords say they can't efficiently renovate while having to pay for the tenant's moving and relocation for costs that will take them decades to recoup.

"Construction and renovations are expensive and the interest rates do not help," Lemieux said. Top Stories

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