Rental board no longer publishing average rent increases

Quebec's rental board has quietly removed the annual average rent increase chart from their website — and tenants are in a panic over increases they don't understand how to fight.

"We're getting lots of panicked calls on the hotline from senior citizens who have been getting increases from their landlords notices asking for $25 or $30 more per month" says tenants' rights advocate Arnold Bennett. "These increases are totally unjustified."

He says tenants used to be able to easily look up what the average increase was for their area and the type of heating of their dwelling, making it easier for them to negotiate with landlords about rent increases.

Without those averages he says tenants are negotiating in the dark.

"Often there have been no major repairs, even if there have been major repairs they don't amount to that much," he says. "So people are telling us that the landlord is demanding 3-4% when the landlord should only be getting 1% or even less."

Denis Morin with the Regie du Logement says those numbers were removed because they didn't take into account all the factors that determine an increase - like taxes and repairs.

"The estimated increases were misunderstood and misused," he says. "Most of the people thought they were recommendations, that isn't the case there's no fixed rate in the province of Quebec."

He says says tenants were refusing increases, thinking the estimated average was the limit.

Morin says the calculation tool that remains on the regie website is a more accurate reflection of what rent should be increased to, but Bennett says only the landlord has access to all the information required to fill it out — putting tenants in a vulnerable negotiating position.

"If they're telling you a lot of smoke and mirrors and aren't giving you detailed figures then they've got something to hide." says Bennett. "Don't panic — send back your refusal, if the landlord has got major repairs or taxes to justify an increase there's a government form that they can give you to justify the increase giving you the calculations."

He says the regie has caved to pressure from landlords associations to do away with publishing estimated averages and now vulnerable tenants have less information to advocate for a fair increase.