Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
New rules for rentals start soon
Minister sees little resistance
Renters and landlords will both see new protections when Manitoba's Residential Tenancies Amendment Act comes into force Aug. 1.
The new rules have been in the works for more than two years and are aimed at making rent increases more predictable and reducing red tape for landlords.
"I think we've got it right," Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux said Thursday. "All the consultation ahead of time has really paid dividends."
Lemieux said the one change that affects all renters is how the province's basic annual rent increase will be calculated. It will now be based on the consumer price index for Manitoba and must fall within the Bank of Canada's inflation-control target range.
"People will know ahead of time," he said. "If landlords want anything over that, they have to go to the Residential Tenancies Commission to get approval and prove that they're doing extra renovations so that they can get over and above what that rate is."
-- Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux
Avrom Charach, a board member with the Professional Property Management Association, said for the most part, the new changes are welcomed by landlords.
"On balance, this is not bad," Charach said. "I don't see things that are patently unfair."
He said the new rent guideline is one of three options landlords asked for to make rent increases more transparent.
"It's definitely wonderful now that people will know and understand how the guideline is reached," he said. "You won't have landlords complain that they're pulling numbers out of the air and you won't have the tenants complaining that they're favouring the landlords."
The new rules also mean tenants must be compensated for moving costs and higher rental fees when a landlord carries out renovations that create a major inconvenience and are intended to drive tenants out.
"There are some landlords who all of a sudden start repairing your bathroom -- it sounds good -- but does it really take a month-and-a-half to replace a toilet?" Lemieux said. "You do see these games being played. These are not legitimate renovations."
Charach said that change is benign as it won't impact the vast majority of landlords.
"Any good landlord isn't going to take the windows out of a suite in the middle of January and leave them out for a month," he said.
The changes will also allow landlords to boot out law-breaking tenants -- they must submit proof first to the Residential Tenancies Commission -- if it affects the security and well-being of other tenants or causes damages.
"If somebody has a meth lab in their apartment or if they're renting a house, it's also a safety issue for the tenants," Lemieux said.
The province says there are also changes to the appeals process so landlords can act faster on rulings in which tenants have not paid their rent.
Gordon McIntyre, co-ordinator of the Winnipeg Rental Network, a non-profit initiative that provides a web-based database for people to find affordable rental housing, said the group was initially concerned the province was going to shorten the period for tenants to appeal those rulings.
"They did revert back to a seven-day appeal period, which we were happy with," McIntyre said.
"We were generally OK with the other amendments."
The province also says regulatory changes coming into effect Jan. 1, 2015, will strengthen requirements for exemptions from rent regulation due to renovations and limit how often landlords can apply for those exemptions. The changes will also spread the cost of some improvements over a longer period, which could result in smaller rent increases.
For more information on the new rules go to manitoba.ca/rtb.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2014 A6
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