The Progressive Conservative government isn’t ruling out some form of rent control past the planned December 2023 lifting of the current 2% cap on rents.
Minister Colton LeBlanc is responsible for Service Nova Scotia, and by extension, the Residential Tenancies Act. In a post-cabinet scrum on Thursday, he was asked about landlords using fixed-term leases to skirt the rent cap.
LeBlanc said it’s “a bit frustrating” to hear that it’s still happening. He said the government is “aggressively looking at the the the need for a compliance enforcement division.” New regulations are coming Friday to protect tenants, LeBlanc said, but they won’t fix the fixed-term lease issue.
LeBlanc was also asked about the rent cap. The former Liberal government imposed that cap during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the PC government extended it until Dec. 31, 2023.
“We know of course with the current rent cap that we extended when we formed government coming to an end this December, there’ll be a number of factors to be considered and discussions are underway as the next steps that we follow through as a government,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said the government is talking to tenants and landlords about the issue.
“We have to understand that the decision to extend the rent cap had ramifications, and subsequent decisions to manipulate or extend or let it go off into the sunset will have impacts on Nova Scotians,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc didn’t rule out a system tying increases to inflation.
“All options are on the table right now regarding that,” he said.
LeBlanc said landlords have to give four months notice for rent increases, so the decision needs to be made soon. But he wouldn’t commit to a deadline.
“There has to be time to communicate any rental increases so I want to make sure that we give adequate notice to tenants and landlords. So I’d say in due time, we’ll have more to say.”
Opposition says government needs to get on it
NDP leader Claudia Chender told reporters the government needs to close the fixed-term lease loophole to remedy the “fundamental power imbalance between landlords and tenants.” And the province needs a predictable rent cap system, Chender said.
“What we need is a system that we can anticipate, that we understand, and that provides clarity to landlords and tenants. And that system is some type of rent control, which exists in most other provinces in this country,” Chender said.
“If the rent cap comes off with no thought at all for what that will do, we will see the homeless population of this province skyrocket.”
The NDP has argued in favour of a system tying allowable rent increases to inflation, with an opportunity for cabinet to intervene.
Liberal deputy leader Kelly Regan didn’t argue for a rent cap, but said the government needs to act now.
“We need something. What it looks like, I’m not sure. But we need something,” Regan said,
“This is not something that needs to happen over the summer or anything like that. This needs to happen now. This is important to Nova Scotians who rent, and it’s important for landlords too, but for people who rent, it will have a big, big impact on this and they need to know, like yesterday.”
Shelter guaranteed for unhoused during cold snap
Meanwhile, with windchill temperatures in the -30s forecast for this weekend, Community Services Minister Karla MacFarlane guaranteed a bed for every unhoused person who wants one.
“We certainly have ramped up efforts knowing what Mother Nature is going to bring us in temperatures,” MacFarlane.
“We feel very prepared, and we certainly want to acknowledge, if there’s anyone at all that is finding themselves in a precarious situation, that there will be a bed for them, a safe place to stay.”
MacFarlane said shelters would open Friday and remain open until Sunday depending on temperatures. “We may have to extend them into next week as well.”
She said they’re getting the word out through politicians, service providers, navigators, libraries, and search and rescue services.
“If they want a bed, they will have a bed,” MacFarlane said.
The Tenancies Act needs major revisions, and the first one should be MAKE FIXED TERM LEASES ILLEGAL FOR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES. The old one-year-renewable lease was fair to tenants, and gave landlords and tenants both some predictability. Of course there were and are some problem tenants, but from my experience, they are a small minority. The other revision we need is a rent cap. I recall, in the 70’s I believe, it was 4%. If the landlord wanted to increase it more than that, he had to produce proof of major renovations/improvements to the property.