Hamilton politicians are trying to reduce what many see as a power imbalance between tenants and landlords, while also protecting the city’s supply of affordable rental housing.
Members of the emergency and community services committee have voted to expand a $50,000 Tenant Defence Fund to cover legal fees for those threatened with N13 eviction notices.
The pilot program previously gave tenant groups access to grant money to fight landlords who have applied for rent increases that surpass the provincial guideline.
Advocates, including Hamilton ACORN and Hamilton Tenants in Unity, call the program’s expansion a “first step” in preventing so-called “renovictions,” a practice through which landlords pressure tenants to leave so they can make repairs or renovations.
Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann has told committee members that there’s been a proliferation of N13 notices in her east end over the past year, driven by what she calls the pursuit of “more profit.”
“It is ultimately becoming a serious social determinant of health issue,” said Nann, “we’re losing affordable units in our city.”
“I’ve had to come to the point of issuing letters myself, as a councillor,” added Nann, “to property owners during this pandemic who have threatened residents to vacate their homes during stay-at-home orders.”
“It is just an excuse for profits mainly,” agrees Mike Wood of Hamilton Tenants in Unity. “I expect the numbers to continue to increase and go much higher — landlords are looking at this as the next end of all to be able to increase their rents.”
Wood told committee members that he knows personally of “13 or 14” rental buildings that are currently subject to N13 notices.
In addition to the creation of the Tenant Defence Fund, the committee approved Coun. Nann’s motion asking staff to report back with a “comprehensive” tenant protection strategy that could range from landlord licensing to a tenant education program.
Tenant’s advocate Bill Johnston spoke in favour of those measures, arguing that “those two steps might as least help ensure that tenants have the opportunity to exercise their right of return to their units after renovation.”