N.B. tenant advocates say more ‘renovictions’ happening as a result of looming rent cap legislation

In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, a For Rent sign is posted in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Some New Brunswick tenants advocacy groups are sounding the alarm over what they say are more ‘renovictions’ after the province announced its 3.8 per cent rent cap in March.

The Blaine Higgs government announced the rent cap during the tabling of their 2022/23 budget, promising to help tenants being faced with large rent increases.

But ACORN N.B. and the N.B. Coalition for Tenants Rights say they’re hearing of more instances where landlords are finding ways around it.

The groups say the cap was a good first step, but without better communication and clarification, loopholes are quickly appearing. Like the so-called ‘renovictions.’

“Right now, the cap is connected to the term of your tenancy which is why eviction is something that works, right?” said Angus Fletcher, an organizer with the coalition. “Because, if I’m a tenant then the cap would be a 3.8 per cent increase on my rent. But if I’m out of the unit and somebody else comes in, then the rent can be set to any arbitrary amount.”

The group says they’re hearing from tenants who have been evicted from two buildings because of “unspecified major renovations.”

Earlier this year, Nichola Taylor and her family were told they had to find another place to live because their apartment was undergoing renovations. They were able to find another location – at a higher cost.

“It was a stressful situation because of what we were told, we have to move out and we have a daughter to think about – we were worried we wouldn’t find anything near her school, and then on top of that you’re worrying about finances,” she said.

Taylor says not many are prepared to – unexpectedly – pay first month’s rent and a damage deposit in the same month. She says the situation taught her a lot about her rights as a tenant.

“We didn’t know anything,” she said. “And it’s not whether you’re an immigrant like we are or whether you are Canadian, a lot of Canadians who are renting also don’t know their fully rights as tenants.”

In an emailed statement to CTV Atlantic, Willy Scholten, president of the N.B. Apartment Owners Association, said landlords are also waiting for more clarity on the legislation.

“The reality is that many landlords are facing tremendous cost increases like everyone else and will need to pay their bills or lose their properties so hopefully the final law will take a balanced approach in its implementation,” he said.

The minister responsible for Service N.B., Mary Wilson said in an emailed statement that she’s aware “some landlords are exploring ways to potentially avoid the rent cap.”

Wilson says she’s encouraging tenants who receive a termination notice “or is feeling pressured to accept a rent increase above 3.8 per cent” to call the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.