A Saint John tenant on disability pension and his wife are looking for a new place to live after receiving a 61% rent increase notice from their new landlord and instructions to start shoveling snow themselves from the entrance to their apartment.
Douglas London, 64, and his wife Anne have lived at 123 City Line for four years. The building was sold in early December to an Ontario numbered company.
Within days, notices of a $380 rent increase and a stop to snow removal around the building were dropped in their mailbox.
“I could have handled a $100 rent increase—I wouldn’t have mind,” London said, “But $380? No. We couldn’t come up with that.”
The Londons are among a growing number of long-term New Brunswick renters hit by substantial rent increases this winter after the province announced in November that it would not join other provinces in setting a cap on what owners can charge in 2022.
London paid $620 a month for his apartment, not including utilities, an amount he said would rise to $1,000 on April 1.
“This increase is necessary to meet rising operating costs and to maintain consistency with the building,” reads the notice dated December 17. “Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.”
The London building and adjoining land were sold on December 9 for $660,000. This is triple the estimated market value of properties made by Service New Brunswick.
Brampton Ont., real estate investor Evan Murray is listed as president of the company that purchased the property. He did not respond to an email asking about the purchase.
Local Saint John property management company, Canada Homes for Rent (CHR), was hired by Murray to look after the eight-unit building. He issued the notices to the tenants regarding the rent.
In an email, Canada Homes for Rent President Jeff Murray said he would speak to the City Line property “as soon as possible” but was busy dealing with the aftermath of a storm at short notice. snow over the weekend.
London, who is on a disability pension with a number of health issues including heart problems, has also been told he will have to take over after the winter storms.
“Where snow removal is not provided by the Landlord, the Tenant shall maintain clear and safe access to the primary and secondary entrance (and) exit and parking space,” the notice reads, which was separate from the rent increase.
Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson told MPs in the fall that the government is concerned that landlords will be reluctant to maintain older buildings or build new units if rent increases are limited.
“Rent control fails to build legitimate costs into rent increases, which leads to the risk that landlords will spend less on maintenance,” Wilson said. “The more you regulate rents, the more you limit supply because it discourages new development.”
But in many recent cases, big rent increases are granted days after older properties are sold to new owners and are not tied to building upgrades or increased supply of new units.
Wilson’s office said she was unavailable for an interview about recent rent increases that followed building sales.
Instead, his department released a statement saying tenants have some protection from unreasonable rent increases if they file a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.
There is “an opportunity to have a rent increase reviewed to determine its reasonableness,” the statement said.
“The reasonableness of any rent increase is based on the current condition of the unit compared to similar units in the same neighborhood.”
However, there are no public guidelines issued by the province on what reasonable rent might be in particular neighborhoods, the size of those neighborhoods, or how buildings compare to one another.
The rental market has become so tight for flats under $1,000 that London said it was unsure it could wait for a lengthy review of its increase to take place if it was successful.
He thinks he can get a line on a small apartment at just under $700 a month, and if it’s offered, he thinks he’ll have to take it.
“When we got that raise, I started looking,” London said.
Jael Duarte, the Fredericton lawyer who advocates for tenants’ rights for the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants’ Rights, believes London should have received at least six months’ notice of the rent increase since her letter arrived. December 17, the day the notice laws changed.
But that’s another issue London aren’t sure they have time to tackle.
New Brunswick is one of four provinces that do not have rent control.
British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are all capping tenant rent increases in 2022, with a few exceptions, between zero and two percent. hundred.