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New Brunswick tenants call for reform to Residential Tenancies Tribunal

Click to play video: 'NB tenants call for reform to NB’s Residential Tenancies Tribunal' NB tenants call for reform to NB’s Residential Tenancies Tribunal
WATCH: NB tenants are calling for reform to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal which they say does not properly advocate for tenants. Global’s Shelley Steeves reports. – Jun 1, 2021

A Saint John mother of two who lives in an apartment in the city says she has been forced to boil water on the stove every day for a year now just to bathe her kids and the province’s Residential Tenancies Tribunal is not doing enough to help her family.

Read more: New Brunswick man calls for rent control after facing $2,000-a-month increase

Victoria Van Dine, who lives in an apartment on Lander Court, said that she has been struggling to access hot water to bathe her kids since moving into the building a year ago.

Van Dine says that in January, she filed a formal complaint with New Brunswick’s Residential Tenancies Board about the lack of access to efficient hot water in her building.

“I went by the books and I did everything that they told me to do, they just told me to wait and wait and wait for a phone call,” she said.

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She says that even after telling the board that it was an emergency because she could not properly clean in the middle of a pandemic, she went months without a response.

“I felt very helpless and backed into a corner because that it the only system that I have to turn to for help,” she said.

She says the board closed her file in error without even consulting her, and there is a lack of advocacy for tenants in New Brunswick.

William Murphy, who now lives in Riverview, agrees.

He says that he was forced to take his previous landlord to court for failing to file his damage deposit with the tribunal. He says it is an example that indicates that the tribunal fails to police landlords who violate the Residential Tenancies Act.

“Rules are being broken but if nobody reports it, they don’t care,” said Murphy.

According to the Service New Brunswick’s residential tenancy guidelines posted online, “If a landlord receives a security deposit it must be remitted to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal within 15 days, otherwise it is an offense under the Residential Tenancies Act.”

Murphy is now calling on the province to conduct an internal review of its tribunal, which he says doesn’t keep proper records, lacks accountability, and favours landlords.

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“Do a proper investigation on the internal workings of the tribunal, and try to get them to a place where it does not support just one side,” he said.

Read more: N.B. rental review recommends increasing housing supply, reviewing tenancy act

Valerie Kilfoil, a representative from the Residential Tenancies Tribunal said in an email to Global News that the board “regularly reviews its internal procedures to ensure that they are effective and meet the needs of their clients.”

She said that the tribunal also recently changed its telephone routing system to respond faster to client’s general inquiries, “which has met with positive feedback.”

She added that  formal complaints are prioritized based on urgency.

Last year, the board received approximately 1,085 applications for assistance from New Brunswick tenants according to Kilfoil. She added that the “volume of demand coming from all areas is very closely monitored to ensure that we are responding to requests within a timely manner.”

Van Dine says it took almost five months, but she finally got a call back from the board on Monday and was told that her case is being sent to a tribunal officer for review — a process that she was told could take another two weeks.

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A 90-day review of the rental situation in New Brunswick was released in early May, which includes recommendations on how to increase housing stock and better protect tenants.  According to the province, the Minister of Social Development will release a response to the review in the coming weeks.

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