Tenants feel squeeze of rising rent

A Town Crier Community Column

It’s become difficult to be a renter in Toronto. Ward 22 has the highest percentage of tenants in the city at 63 percent and I consistently hear from many that their budget is being squeezed tighter every month.

This year’s high guideline rent increase, coupled with Above the Guideline Increases for basic upkeep and repairs have pushed rents up the roof. In addition, the low vacancy rate has made it near impossible to find lower-cost alternatives elsewhere.

I heard these concerns, and many others, at a tenants’ town hall I hosted last month. Renters from across midtown had questions answered by experts I invited from the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board, Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants’ Associations, Greater Toronto Apartments’ Association, Advocacy Centre for Tenants and city staff from Municipal Licensing and Standards.

Queen’s Park took a good first step late last year toward addressing spiralling rent increases with the introduction of Bill 19, Residential Tenancies Amendment Act. This proposed legislation would see the Guideline increase capped at 2.5 percent — preventing the unfair 3.1 percent raise tenants had this year from being repeated.

As this bill makes its way through the committee process, I’ll continue to advocate on behalf of tenants for the inclusion of several measures to help control rents in our community.

Complaints about Above the Guideline Increases on rent is the most common concern I hear from tenants in my ward.

This sort of increase, which must be approved by the Landlord and Tenant Board allows landlords to raise rents by up to 9 percent per application above the guideline to cover the costs of capital repairs, conservation initiatives, tax increases, utility cost increases or the introduction of security equipment.

Seeing that landlords are already allowed to increase rents by inflation (the guideline amount) each year, this increase should be sufficient to keep a building in a good state of repair. I believe Above the Guideline Increases should only be permitted if a landlord is providing his tenants with a new amenity such as a swimming pool or gym.

I also believe that these type of increases should only be allowed if the landlord has kept the unit in a state of good repair and that he or she has resolved any outstanding repair issues or work orders prior to increasing a tenant’s rent.

As current rent regulations only apply to existing tenancies. Any rent can be negotiated for a new tenancy meaning that during periods with a low vacancy rate (such as right now) rents can grow exponentially as demand far outweighs supply. Vacancy control should be reintroduced with a cap on rent increases (for example 10 percent) for new units.

Along with these proposed legislative changes, our government must commit to informing tenants of their rights and work to protect them. Ultimately, a residential rental unit is not only a business — it’s a home.

About this article:

By: Josh Matlow
Posted: Apr 17 2012 12:17 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto