Montreal tenants worried about Bill 31, fearing it could give more power to landlords

“This is crazy,” says Lasalle tenant Theodros Wolde about newly tabled Bill 31 that could cancel lease transfers, a tool that has been used by tenants to control rent prices. Brittany Henriques reports.

“This is crazy! Almost 75% of people rely on rental properties,” said LaSalle tenant Theodros Wolde.

Montreal tenants and housing rights groups are worried. Quebec tabled Bill 31, a law that could cancel rental lease transfers, a tool renters have been using to find affordable housing.

“In the matter that the government didn’t really work to control rent the lease transfer was one of the ways the tenants could work together to avoid the rent increase between tenants,” said Catherine Lussier, community organizer with housing group FRAPRU.

“I have personally transferred two leases and have had two apartments where I saw leases the rates increase dramatically from one tenant to the other. I know this because I kept in touch with the tenant that took over. I’ll give you an example when I was in NDG I had a five and a half for $530 and it was on the market for $1400 when I left,” said Saint-Henri tenant Mauro Pena.

“Lease transfer helps people get a lower price for the same service that we’ve been getting. I’m getting the same service as the lady who’s going to be paying 1650 dollars, there’s nothing that changes they didn’t install new furniture or doors or anything,” said Wolde.

Quebec Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau came under fire after saying tenants should invest in property if they want to transfer leases — explaining that tenants have been misusing lease transfers for their benefit.
Duranceau has since apologized.

“Oh you just have to own property in order to have rights. It was seen like that, but obviously its not possible for low income tenants for them to own property and for this government we feel more and more that those who have the more urgent needs are actually ignored,” said Lussier.

Advocates say the government hasn’t invested in social housing, leaving many with no choice but to find ways to pay a livable rent.

“No one thinks about social housing no one thinks about people who are suffering they don’t care its just mind boggling,” said Wolde.

“They don’t give any priority for social housing and we have been asking that we need a program that is complete that is that on a long term period to really support communities to develop social housing and to truly answer the needs,” said Lussier.

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