Despite a number of attempts by opposition parties to amend the bill, Quebec Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau is officially moving ahead with her proposed changes to lease transfers.
Bill 31, the minister’s controversial proposed housing legislation, is still undergoing clause-by-clause review at the National Assembly this week.
But by Tuesday night, the Quebec government had officially managed to get most sections of the bill pertaining to lease transfers adopted.
Duranceau tabled a series of amendments to her bill in recent weeks, but following months of protest from housing groups and opposition parties, she maintains that lease transfers are not the right way to deal with the housing crisis.
If the bill is adopted into law, it would officially give homeowners the right to refuse a lease transfer without having to give a valid reason.
“Let’s say you have a landlord who owns a duplex, isn’t it reasonable to choose who’s going to live above his head?” Duranceau told Global News Tuesday. “It is not the right tool to control the rent.”
Duranceau is accusing housing groups of spreading “disinformation.”
She says her bill will not abolish lease transfers entirely. She also highlights that if a homeowner refuses a lease transfer without a valid reason, they would terminate the lease and allow the tenant to leave the apartment early without having to pay additional rent or penalties.
“I think she’s right,” Quebec Liberal Party housing critic Virginie Dufour said. “But it’s not the right moment…. At this moment when we see occupation rates so low, the truth is owners already have a right to bargain.”
In cases of eviction, homeowners would now have to pay tenants reasonable moving costs and the equivalent of one month’s rent for every year they’ve lived in the dwelling — for a minimum of three months and a maximum of 24. The bill also suggests the tenant could request more through the rental board if they feel it’s warranted.
The burden of proof would also now fall on the landlord in cases of eviction, and an amendment to the bill tabled last week would also now see homeowners penalized if they fail to include the lowest-paid rent over the last year in a lease.
“We’re protecting better the tenants, we’re increasing the amount of money they receive if a landlord takes back the apartment,” Duranceau added. “So the more time we take to discuss and re-discuss the current bill, well the less chance we have to be able to protect those people.”
Québec Solidaire housing critic Andrés Fontecilla says he agrees with additional eviction measures in the bill, but he criticized the minister again Tuesday for her refusal to move on lease transfers.
Fontecilla and housing groups maintain lease transfers are an essential tool to fight the housing crisis and prevent major rental hikes.
“The Minister systematically ignored the recommendations made by rights groups,” FRAPRU spokesperson Véronique Laflamme said in a statement to Global News. “(Lease transfers are) one of the only means for tenants to avoid abusive rent increases by landlords when changing tenants, and to allow access to housing for tenants who are victims of discrimination.”
FRAPRU, as well as the City of Montreal and other groups, had also been calling for the creation of a rental registry.
But when answering a question from Québec solidaire in the legislature last week, Duranceau said such a measure would have no real impact on the ground.
There is only one section of the bill left for the legislative committee to review.
The clause-by-clause review is expected to continue into next week.