On November 25, Chuck Porter, then Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, signed a ministerial directive limiting rent increases to 2% per year until the end of the state of emergency, or February 2022, whichever comes first. It included a provision that rent controls would apply to both existing tenants and new tenants moving into the same unit.
No press release
The new tenants provision, which advocates say is key to discouraging landlords from finding ways to evict tenants, was removed in an amendment to the Emergency Management Act by Porter on Nov. 27, without press release issued on the change.
A spokesperson for Service Nova Scotia, which oversees the Residential Tenancies Act, said in an email Wednesday that the directive “was changed because it went beyond the intent of the existing tenant protection policy.”
Tracy Barron said the latest version was posted on the government’s COVID-19 website and published in the Royal Gazette. Some homeowner and tenant groups have also said they’ve received an email regarding the change.
Tenant advocacy groups say the change in government has significantly weakened advertised rent controls.
Wave of expulsions
Hannah Wood, a spokesperson for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, said in an email Thursday that removing the provision undermines a key rent cap objective, which is to stabilize rents at a time when vacancy rates are very low. drive up prices.
“The lack of public announcement around this decision raises questions of transparency and reasoning,” she wrote.
“By allowing landlords to raise rent between tenants, the government has made landlords evict long-term tenants or those with below-market rents, contributing to the wave of evictions ACORN is experiencing.” currently. “
Gary Burrill, Leader of the Opposition NDP, said in an interview Thursday that the change is a major weakening of the regulation, “because it doesn’t provide the protections new tenants need … and the effect is diminishing. the impact of having rent control at all. “
“Doing this undercover and, in essence, secretly, is both surreptitious and devious,” he said.
Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said in an interview Thursday that the changes were a reasonable way to reflect the legislation’s original intent to protect existing tenants from excessive rent increases.
Russell said that when a tenant moves out, it is natural for the landlord to do work on the apartment and potentially increase the rent to cover expenses and improve the condition of the residence. He said that could mean the increase is expected to be more than 2%, as new appliances, flooring and kitchen cabinets are expensive.
“There should be a return on investment to reflect the amount of funds invested in the unit,” he said.
No one received a fine
However, Mark Culligan, a community legal worker with the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, said the change was disappointing following the fanfare of the rental cap.
Further, he notes that on January 4, he received a letter from Service Nova Scotia stating that residential rental agents would not issue fines for breaches of the law, leaving enforcement to the police and service. prosecution.
The law provides for minimum fines of $ 500 and maximum fines of $ 15,000 for individuals and maximum fines of $ 100,000 for corporations.
Spokesmen for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, RCMP and Halifax Police said to date that there have been no prosecutions or contraventions under the provisions of the directive. minister.