By Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - A national advocacy group for low- and middle-income families is urging tenants in Nova Scotia to make the reinstatement of rent control an election issue.
“Rent control … ensures affordability in housing and prevents cash grabs by landlords,” said ACORN Nova Scotia co-founder Evan Coole at a town hall meeting Thursday. “It’s possibly one of the best and most cost-effective ways to provide affordable housing.”
About two dozen people came to the meeting on tenants’ rights and the merits of rent control.
Many shared frustrations about the cost of housing and flaws in the Residential Tenancies Act that make it difficult to get fair treatment.
“The system we have now is a slightly more regulated version of the old contract-based landlord and tenant law,” explained Dalhousie law student Bruce Muir.
Several people were seeking advice on everything from illegal rent hikes to arguments over basic maintenance.
“Even a simple thing of getting a new fire extinguisher, the one they had…was expired,” said Jonethan Brigley, who’s had to consult a lawyer over other issues. “I brought it to my landlord…he said, ‘If it’s in your apartment, it’s your responsibility to replace it.’”
Muir urged participants to work together on universal issues, even though the Act prevents tenants from filing claims as a group.
“You can still work with other people in your apartment to build a good case, but you just have to apply separately,” he explained.
No provincial candidates attended the meeting, and Coole urged everyone at the meeting to raise tenants’ rights with local contenders.
Most people in attendance signed an open letter that will be sent to every candidate.
“It’s really sad and unfortunate, given how many voters are tenants, that our issues aren’t on the agenda,” said Coole. “(We) aren’t party donors, we have lower incomes than landlords and in a lot of cases, landlords are actually candidates.”