Tenants seek help with big rent hike; minister says rent control not an option
Published Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:41AM CST
Residents of a Regina apartment block say they feel like "faceless people" and are frustrated after their building was recently sold to a Calgary company that has implemented massive rent hikes.
In some cases, the tenants say, rents are going up 77 per cent.
Pat Colpitts, a senior who has lived in the building for nine years, says the rent on her small two bedroom apartment is $675, but come Sept. 1 it will jump to $1,195.
"Totally shocked," Colpitts says of the increase.
"We knew there would be an increase because it's new owners, but we weren't expecting $520, maybe $100, maybe $200. But that's it for me. I'll be moving out, there's no ifs, ands or buts."
"It is financially impossible to stay there, for me, and I would think a lot of other tenants as well," she added.
Colpitts and a handful of other tenants went to the Saskatchewan legislature Tuesday to plead for help. They want the province to bring in rent control.
Justice Minister Gord Wyant said Thursday that the rent hike was "an exceptional circumstance," adding that most increases in the province are in the two to four per cent range.
However, Wyant said rent control is off the table.
"We believe that it's a disincentive to improving properties, it's a disincentive to the establishment and for the building of new rental accommodations and we've seen that across the province and we've seen that across the country," he said.
But the minister said there might be other options for the tenants through the Saskatchewan Rental Industry Housing Association.
"Perhaps there's some other (solution), maybe phasing it in. There's lots of solutions that could potentially could be arranged between the parties," he said.
"And if that doesn't work, then the program will provide some assistance in trying to find alternate accommodations."
The Calgary-based Castle Mountain Properties gave the proper six months notice for the increase, said Wyant.
Landlords who belong to the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association have to give six months notice of rent increases. Other landlords have to give 12 months notice, under legislation passed by the Saskatchewan Party government.
New Democrat David Forbes, who raised the issue in the legislature, says there's nothing to stop other landlords from making massive hikes as well.
"These new regulations that they've put into place, these new laws, doesn't really help," said Forbes.
"It may make them feel better, but it doesn't really help because at the end of the day you do have to pay your rent or move and this is what's happening. In a sense, it really is an eviction notice."