An independent tenant advocacy group has started a petition calling for Halifax council to force landlords in Nova Scotia to be licensed.
Nova Scotia ACORN says tenants across Nova Scotia – especially those with low income, newcomers, students and families — are being taken advantage of by “predatory landlords.”
“We have conditions in our rental housing that are subpar and unsafe,” said Hannah Wood, chair of Nova Scotia ACORN. “How can we expect people to shelter in place during COVID in their unsafe, unhealthy home?”
READ MORE: Rally outside Nova Scotia legislature calls for extension to coronavirus eviction ban
The organization held a rally along the Halifax waterfront on Saturday to shed light on some of those concerns. They say tenants are living in dirty and unsafe conditions because their landlords don’t do repairs or take care of pests.
They’re calling on the city to enact a proactive system to hold landlords accountable and keep units up to standard. The system would allow tenants to anonymously complain about their landlord.
If the landlord gets enough complaints, they could lose their licence.
“Right now there are no systems in place whatsoever for removing landlords from the privilege of being a landlord, and this system would bring that accountability,” said Wood.
Wood feels there are a good amount of landlords that would welcome licensing.
“Those who have nothing to hide hide nothing,” she said. “So I think a lot of landlords will actually be very supportive of this.”
Saturday’s rally also allowed tenants to express their frustrations with the provincial housing market. A common theme was unexpected rent increases.
“The prices go up by hundreds of dollars every year,” said Mila McKay with Nova Scotia ACORN. “It’s just unattainable.”
READ MORE: Pandemic-related evictions expected to rise in Nova Scotia without provincial action
With a potential second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon – as well as a municipal election – Wood says getting their message out early and often is important.
“When we tell people to shelter in place, they need to be able to do so,” said Wood. “If we don’t deal with this now and we have another government shutdown, how will we deal with it during?”
The group has started a petition for landlord licensing, which they plan to send to Halifax councillors before October’s municipal election.