The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights believes that housing is a human right. The Coalition fights for a seismic shift in the landlord-tenant framework in New Brunswick and is calling to scrap the existing Residential Tenancies Act in favour of a completely overhauled version with tenant rights at the forefront.
“Tenants in New Brunswick have fewer rights than almost anywhere in Canada,” said Aditya Rao, explaining that this is why she and others created the Coalition.
Rao criticizes the existing Act as being derived from a pure free market and contract approach as there is no “equal bargaining power” as long as the landlord has more power than the tenant.
For this reason, Rao is proposing specific policy changes to put tenants on a more equal playing field. Among the most urgent are rent control, eviction protection, and landlord licensing. All three have the goal of protecting the ability of tenants to remain in their current home.
Premier Blaine Higgs has stated that eviction numbers have not increased this year. However, as Rao explains, there are reasons to doubt the validity of the statistics being relied upon.
“Things like rent increases force someone out but are not counted as evictions by the province,” Rao said.
Rent control would limit the amount that landlords can raise rent for a given time period. As it stands, landlords can increase rent with no limits so long as three months notice is given. Rao’s proposal is that the cost of living be taken into account when deciding rent increases.
“We want to stop these massive real estate trusts from coming into New Brunswick and jacking up the rent on our citizens,” explained Rao, indicating that the proposed rent control would also apply to vacant units. “Without rent control on vacant units, there is an incentive to evict. The tenant is evicted and the rent is then increased at will.”
Landlord licensing goes hand-in-hand with rent control. The idea is to have landlords register properties with the government for proactive inspection. Rao says this is to avoid “renovictions,” which occur when a landlord allows a place to fall into disrepair and then evicts the tenant to complete maintenance.
“It is a guise for evicting the tenant, repairing the unit, and upping the rent,” said Rao, explaining that the The Coalition aims to eliminate the incentive to renovict by ensuring units are held to a minimum standard of ongoing maintenance by the province.
General eviction protection is another main item on Rao’s agenda, explaining that a landlord should not be able to evict someone without providing a reason, which is the current situation in New Brunswick.
These issues are especially pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Rao is calling for an immediate moratorium on evictions in the province.
Rao hopes students understand how these issues affect them while they live in New Brunswick, especially those that sign leases from out of province unaware of the legal situation they find themselves in.
Students can visit www.nbtenants.ca to learn more about Rao’s policy proposals and may click the “take action” button to send a letter to their MLA.