Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson has promised that landlords won’t be able to find ways around proposed tenancy rules set to impose a temporary rent cap and establish specific requirements for landlords to end tenancies.
“And I can guarantee you, right here today, that the small percentage of landlords who are trying to find loopholes to circumvent this system are not going to be successful,” Wilson said during question period on Tuesday.
Bill 96 will make changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, setting a cap on rental increases of 3.8 per cent for the year and restrict the reasons why landlords can terminate a tenancy. Advocates and opposition leaders alike have worried that the proposed legislation lacks the teeth to prevent landlords from circumventing the new rules.
When speaking to reporters, Wilson softened her language saying the government will “do everything they can” to protect tenants, before finally saying they “will be sure to close” any loopholes.
Wilson’s guarantee isn’t providing much comfort to Liberal finance critic Rob McKee.
“Unless it’s something written into the legislation, whatever the minister says is not law,” McKee said.
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“The residential tribunal is going to follow the law as written and not what the minister said during question period.”
Green leader David Coon was even more direct with his criticism, saying the minister was “dreaming in technicolor. Without serious amendments … she can’t guarantee much.”
“There’s so many ways to get around that bill as we’ve already seen from reissuing rent increases to begin after the rent cap ends at the end of this year to renovictions.”
Wilson has repeatedly said the government will review the rent cap to evaluate if it’s still needed next year, but hasn’t given a timeline for when that decision will be made or announced.
So-called renovictions, where landlords evict a tenant in order to renovate their unit, are not banned by the legislation and are one of the acceptable reasons a tenancy can be terminated. Wilson said renovations must make a unit uninhabitable in order to qualify and landlords would have to file supporting evidence with the tribunal to back up the termination.
The other approved reasons for termination are if the unit was provided as part of an employment relationship that is ending, the unit is no longer to be used for residential purposes or if it’s needed for a member of a landlord’s family.
If a tenant is facing a termination for an unapproved reason they must apply to the tribunal within 15 days. But as of Tuesday the legislation had yet to receive second reading and isn’t expected to receive royal assent until the sitting wraps up in June.
The termination rules will be back dated to March 22 and the rent cap to January 1, but Wilson couldn’t say if the residential tribunal has the legal authority to act on complaints before the legislation passes.
“Just please make sure you apply now. It was announced on March 22. We will work out the changes as we debate the bill and you’ll see the specifics as that rolls out,” she said.
According to a spokesperson for Service New Brunswick, the tribunal will have to catalogue complaints and can act on them once the law is in force, but only if a tenant has applied within 15 days of receiving a termination notice.
“Tenants who have received a notice of termination can apply within 15 days to open a case with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal (RTT). The RTT will investigate the matter and once the legislation has passes, will have the authority to enforce the new changes,” said Jennifer Vienneau.
Vienneau said that landlords who terminated a tenancy for an unapproved reason between March 22 and when the legislation is proclaimed ” may be required to compensate the tenants for any losses they may incur, such as moving expenses.”