Government defeats push by opposition parties to extend N.B. rent cap

Click to play video: 'Proposed rent cap legislation receives scrutiny from N.B. legislative committee'
Proposed rent cap legislation receives scrutiny from N.B. legislative committee
Proposed legislation that would cap rents in New Brunswick for the year and put limits on why a landlord can end a tenancy received scrutiny from a legislative committee. The bill now looks a little different, although not as much as some opposition members would like. Silas Brown reports – May 25, 2022

A flurry of amendments to proposed tenancy legislation saw the government and opposition parties diverge on how best to deal with the province’s housing crisis.

Both opposition parties pushed for a proposed one-year cap on rental increases of 3.8 per cent to be extended, with Green Party Leader David Coon suggesting the cap be subject to annual review.

Service New Brunswick minister Mary Wilson said the government will review the rent cap at the end of the year, but doesn’t want to see it become permanent policy.

“Implementing rent caps permanently could have a negative impact on the development of additional rental units and slow down investment in the housing sector. For this reason, it was decided to implement this measure temporarily,” Wilson said after Coon’s amendment was defeated.

In total, four amendments saw debate Wednesday during a meeting of the standing committee on economic policy, the body responsible for the in-depth study and amending of bills. Only one, which was proposed by the government, passed.

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Just weeks after vowing to ensure landlords will not be able to circumvent proposed protections for tenants, Wilson moved to close a loophole that had left some renters exposed to unapproved lease terminations.

Back in March, the government announced it would institute a one-year cap on rental increases of 3.8 per cent and limit the reasons a landlord could terminate a tenancy. But in the initial legislation, people on month-to-month leases could have faced lease terminations for any reason without penalty.

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

“A gap was uncovered within the bill, leaving month-to-month tenants vulnerable to terminations without cause,” Wilson told the committee.

Now, anyone who received a notice of termination after March 22 to end a tenancy prior to the bill receiving royal assent, which is expected to happen in June, will be eligible for compensation from the landlord. That amendment passed unanimously.

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Other suggested changes to the bill were less successful.

As currently written, it is up to the tenant to apply to the residential tenancies tribunal if they receive a notice of termination that doesn’t fall under one of the four approved reasons. That includes renovations extensive enough to require the unit to be vacant. Coon’s proposal would “reverse the onus,” requiring a landlord to apply to the tribunal for permission to terminate the lease if the tenant doesn’t agree to end the tenancy.

“To make that application to the residential tenancies tribunal with the necessary permits and approvals, so that it’s clear to the residential tenancies tribunal that in fact this is a legitimate renovation requiring vacant possession and not using this as a loophole,” Coon said.

But according to Wilson, the government feels the bill as currently proposed, which would require the tenants to apply to the tribunal within 15 days, is strong enough.

“We are confident that the legislation goes far enough and that an amendment is not necessary,” Wilson said.

Finally, having failed to strengthen protections against so-called renovictions, Coon proposed to ban them entirely for the rest of the year. That amendment was also defeated.

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The bill has yet to pass the committee stage, which must happen before it receives third reading and royal assent, something Wilson says should happen as quickly as possible.

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