Rent cap unenforceable until legislated: Service New Brunswick

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Service New Brunswick says rent cap unenforceable without legislation
WATCH ABOVE: A newly proposed rent cap in New Brunswick is creating some confusion. The cap is not yet written into legislation and, according to the province, cannot be enforced. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story – Mar 26, 2022

In its latest budget, the government in New Brunswick announced a one-year rent cap, but with that came a bit of uncertainty about how it would actually work.

The proposed rent cap is 3.8 per cent retroactive to Jan. 1, meaning rental increases issued after that date are invalid if they surpass the cap.

It created some confusion though, when it came to how the retroactive part would work, and whether the cap would require legislation.

“It’s a voluntary rent control,” said interim Liberal leader Roger Melanson. “There is no legislation that mandates a control on rent and when it does happen, supposedly effective June 1, the retroactivity of it is going to be really unclear.”

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Melanson said without legislation the rent cap doesn’t hold any weight.

“They don’t have the power or the authority to do it right now,” Melanson, said speaking of the opportunity to implement a rent cap under the emergency order which was lifted on March 14.

“It’s completely confusing and mind-boggling,” Melanson said speaking to reporters on Friday.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick bringing in rent increase cap'
New Brunswick bringing in rent increase cap

Kevin Arsenault, Kent North MLA with the Green Party, said he doesn’t think the rent cap, as it stands, will go well, especially without legislation to enforce it.

He said he is continually adding people to the list who need affordable housing in his riding.

“We’re adding seven to eight people per week to that list,” he said. “This problem is not going away.”

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Arsenault said the way Premier Blaine Higgs sees the housing crisis is flawed.

“I think, sincerely, he is creating a market situation where it’s going to be advantageous even more for big speculative companies to come and buy up more buildings in the province and that’s going to have the adverse effects.”

A spokesperson for Service New Brunswick said legislation is required to enforce the cap and the bill hasn’t been tabled yet.

“The rent cap requires a legislative change which will not come into effect until the Bill passes through the legislature,” said Jennifer Vienneau in an email.  “The legislation will implement the rent cap with an effective date of January 1st.”

She said landlords can implement the cap voluntarily right now if they want.

“If tenants and landlords choose not to, the rent cap will be enforced as soon as the legislative changes receive Royal Assent,” she said. “Once legislation receives Royal Assent in June the Residential Tenancies Tribunal will have the authority to enforce the legislation being introduced.”

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Still, Lyle Skinner, a constitutional lawyer living in Ontario with expertise in New Brunswick, said in a tweet to Global News the longer the cap exists without legislation the more confusion it will create.

“The Tribunal (Residential Tenancies Tribunal) has no way to force, for example, a landlord to credit an overpayment on the April rent, as there is presently no law,” he said in a tweet.

He said legally there is no requirement for a landlord “to offer a rent cap rebate prior to the law being changed.”

Click to play video: 'Housing costs continuing to rise in the Maritimes'
Housing costs continuing to rise in the Maritimes

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