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Tenants call for rent control, landlords call for end to lease transfers

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Verdun residents took to the streets Sunday to protest rising rent prices — a move that comes as landlords ask the province to abolish lease transfers.

Gathered outside the Verdun metro station, protestors demanded rent control, which would cap the amount landlords can increase rent.

“What this would mean is that you could see what previous tenants were paying, and this would actually hold landlords accountable and protect tenants in tangible ways,” said Olivia Dumas of the Coalition of Housing and Tenant Associations Committees of Quebec (RCLALQ).

Some protestors say they were pushed out of the neighbourhood because of soaring prices.

“We want a city that is here to welcome everyone, not just people who are wealthy enough to pay $2,000 for a two-bedroom apartment,” one attendee told CTV News.

But as the cost-of-living increases and Montreal’s skyline fills with more new condo developments, landlords are pushing back.

Martin Messier, president of the Quebec Landlords Association (QLA), says the approved rent increases aren’t enough to keep up with demand.

“Let’s say I re-do a roof: I’d have to wait 50 years,” he said.

Lease transfers — when a tenant leaves their unit early and transfers their lease to someone else — are a longstanding point of contention between landlords and tenants in Montreal.

Messier says lease transfers must be abolished, as they can prevent the landlord from increasing rent between tenants.

“The law should protect the tenant while he’s there, but as soon as the tenant is leaving, we should be able to put back the rent to market value. We should be able to negotiate with the tenant the price of the rent, without possibility of contestation.”

On the flip side, Olivia Dumas says lease transfers don’t take rights away from landlords, and that they’re one of the few tools tenants have to curb rent increases.

“Ultimately, landlords tend to increase rent the most between tenants. It’s understandable that they would want to get rid of it because this is what would allow them to increase rents, unchecked, and without any form of control.”

CTV News reached out to the Housing Ministry for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Both sides of the debate are calling on the provincial government for help, and hope the issue will be front and centre ahead of the upcoming election.  

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