“Let’s Make a Better Deal”: Manitoba’s New Tenant Protection Package

by Chris on July 18, 2011

“Your home is your castle, even if it’s rented,” says Manitoba’s Family Services and Consumer Affairs Minister Gord Mackintosh. “So, especially in times of low vacancy rates, tenants need to be protected against excessive rent increases and unfair eviction.”

Manitoba officials, including Mackintosh and Community Development Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross, are proposing strong measures to better protect tenants from excessive rent increases and uncontrolled condo conversions.

“We have seen historic private and public construction of more than 800 apartments in Winnipeg and the strongest year for construction in recent history, outpacing other major centres in Canada,” said Irvin-Ross. “We have triggered the biggest public investment in affordable housing through HomeWorks! including 1,500 new units over five years. A stakeholder working group has also been launched to find other solutions to rental challenges.”

While recognizing these achievements and continuing to encourage the development of new apartments and upgrading existing stock, better protections will be put in place for existing renters, the ministers said in outlining the following changes.

Before landlords could get a rent exemption under the whole-building rehabilitation program, they would have to upgrade not just one major component but two, for example, heating and plumbing, and they would have to spend 50 per cent more on a per-unit basis.

Also, when landlords apply for a rent increase above the guideline, they would recover the cost of some major repairs over eight years instead of six.

For example, on a $100,000 roof and foundation upgrade to a 12-unit apartment building, which would allow an owner to increase rent above the yearly guideline, each tenant would pay almost $350 less in increased rent each year under the new rules than under the old ones. On a $50,000 upgrade to a 12-unit building, each tenant would pay $172 less in increased rent each year under the new rules.

New tenant rights, such as tenure rights, would be introduced to protect tenants who are evicted for renovations in cases where units are re-rented after conversion to condominiums.

The province is also working with students and universities to develop more rights for students living in residences.

Condominium ownership has become the choice for many Manitobans, but the unmanaged conversion of apartments to condos can hurt renters, said the ministers, adding the province will propose new protections to better manage conversions including enabling municipalities to control condo conversions when vacancies are low.

Notice to tenants about condo conversions would be doubled to six months from three months. No condo conversions would be allowed when people were evicted without cause in the previous year and no conversions would be allowed for four years after a rehabilitation exemption is approved.

Along with these measures, the province is increasing, as of Dec. 1, 2011, direct cash help to low?income earners paying the rent under RentAid (formerly the Manitoba Shelter Benefit). The benefit will increase to $720 from $600 a year for those on EIA. For low-income Manitobans, there will also be an increase to RentAid. For example a low-income senior getting $1,320 a year will now get $1,452 a year and a working family of four getting $1,464 a year will now get $1,632 a year. Under Budget 2011, the Education Property Tax Credit will increase by $50 per year and up to $150 for seniors.

The province will improve tenant-landlord relations this year by scheduling eviction hearings for troublemakers faster, speeding-up appeals by the Residential Tenancies Commission and encouraging landlords to allow pets.

An independent advisor service will be expanded to help landlords of smaller properties. Late payment and NSF cheques fees would be increased, increased costs will be awarded on claims for compensation and landlord fees for above-guideline rent-increase applications would be reduced for smaller buildings, said the ministers.

Manitoba’s rent regulation regime has ensured some of Canada’s most affordable rents, said Mackintosh. The average annual rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Winnipeg is now almost $1,400 cheaper than in Saskatoon where there is no regulation, he said.

The minister noted a recent study of rent regulation in Manitoba by Dr. Hugh Grant of the University of Winnipeg has concluded that it has prevented “unwarranted increases, or gouging that might be expected in a period of excess demand.”

The Tenant Protection/Landlord Relations Package is part of the province’s Let’s Make a Better Deal strategy for stronger consumer protection.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

A. Shewchuk July 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

I have been a small property manager in Winnipeg for 15 years. After many exhaustive and frustrating years of dealing with the RTBs’ open discrimination towards landlords, I am closing my business. The government has an open double standard that excuses landlord loses as a “cost of doing business”, yet protects tenants unreasonably and runs up the owners losses – it can take more than 3 months after filing paperwork with the RTB to evict a tenant. With approx. 40% of rental units in this province owned by small “mom and pop” investors saving for retirement or their child’s education, there is no way these landlords can be familiar with the intricacies of the RTB legislation. Yet, I have witnessed these good, hardworking people literally crying in the RTB offices because they cannot afford the mortgage payment and because they served their paperwork in the wrong order, the tenant is allowed to remain! A typical business owner, has the ability to identify a losing situation and take immediate steps to minimize these losses. The Manitoba government ensures this is NOT the case for private Landlords. You can identify a losing situation but you are unable to do anything for months on end, if at all. While you are taking “action”, the tenant is aware and begins to destroy your property. So now you have not only the rental loss but thousands of dollars in repairs as well. The RTB says – you can file a claim, but you have to serve the individual, who has left in a midnight move before the Sheriff is called to remove them. Even if you are lucky enough to be able to serve and obtain a judgment in your favor, RTB court is well known as “Kangaroo Court” because few, if any, tenants ever pay a judgment! I have files of tens of thousand of dollars in judgments that have never been paid. Most property owners will not even bother filing a claim for damages because it is pointless and a complete waste of time. That doesn’t even cover the stress and frustration of sitting in a hearing and being treated worse than a criminal because you “own property”. I have had my minor children’s lives threatened on numerous occasions, the last one was in January in a court hearing in front of an RTB officer. My children have never been to any property or met any tenants. We live outside of the city and have an unlisted telephone number and they go to school outside of the city. The tenant would have had to go to great lengths to acquire their names. The hearing officer didn’t stop the tenant or do anything to protect my children or contact security, nothing!!! I contacted the police who said it was an RTB issue and the RTB say its a police issue, no action is taken to protect minor children. When I wrote a letter to the RTB manager, I never received a response back. This is a common practice among tenants. I have met many property managers and owners who have had similar experiences and the RTB and police do nothing! No business owner should have to live with less rights than a common murderer or rapist!!!! The discrimination against property owners in this province is so pervasive, it leaves one speechless!

There was a large group of property owners I was working with, somewhere around 50 owners and many more we have befriended over the years. NOT ONE of them still owns property in Winnipeg because of the RTB! Not one!!!! Business owners realize a loss when they see it, and when you do not have any rights to make changes in your own businesses, there is no point continuing. Hence the RTB is creating the exact situation they are trying to eliminate. Large property management companies and owners have the financial resources to work in and around the RTB guidelines. Yet the RTB regulations force out the smaller property owners who historically keep the rents lower and more affordable. Currently, owning rental property in Winnipeg is simply a new “social service” where landlords are stuck paying rent and utilities and repairs for bad tenants who know the system and work the system. After 15 years as a property manager, I have met thousands of tenants who know and work the system for every last dime but I have never once met a slum landlord that the RTB claims they protect tenants from. I’m not saying they are not there, but the ratio of bad tenants to bad landlords is so skewed that the RTB is ensuring by their legislation that the bad tenants continue to multiply while hundreds of good landlords disappear.

The one “study” quoted by Mr. Macintosh is contrary to numerous studies, including one that released by Winnipeg Realtors Association earlier this spring. If the RTB was given much more limited authority and rent controls were abolished or significantly limited, instead of unrealistic rents and gouging in the marketplace, you would have an influx of new owners offering more selection because then it would be a business again. As it stands an owner is allowed a pathetic 1% increase, but the property taxes, gas, electricity and water, and insurance costs have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. The rent increase does not allow for the owner to recover the increase costs, let alone have income left over for things like routine maintenance. Hence many owners look at this and simply sell to get out of the business. There is no other business in this province that increases your costs while capping your potential income and then penalizes you for not having funds to maintain the business assets (the property). They might as well tie your hands behind your back, blindfold you and then shoot you!

We have sold off most of our properties over the last number of years. Rental properties do not sell as quickly and are not in as high of a demand as single family homes. As we have been selling, any property that could be converted back to a single family home once the tenants were gone has been removed from the rental market and sold as a single family home to try to re-coup some of the losses from its time as a rental property. Contrary to RTB claims, I have never had to evict a tenant for the purposes of selling a property. We have a duplex right now where one tenant has purchased a house and is not renewing his lease and the other tenant hasn’t paid full rent for June and has made no payments for July. Instead of being able to take our property back, we have to wait and go through the RTB process and will get our property back after a minimum of a 2 month loss (3+ months if the tenant appeals to the RTB commission); then will have the privilege of obtaining the property back with an additional few thousand dollars of repairs(from damages inflicted by tenant) now required while waiting for a decision. We will not be renting it again and will sell it vacant or convert to a single family and sell.

The RTB ensures owners losses are huge and when you only own a few small properties, there is no ability to move income from other properties to cover your losses, something many larger property owners often do. Hence, the RTB has created their own lack of housing and will continue to make the situation worse until they stop expecting “rich property owners” to cover the costs of “poor tenants”. I have seen so many of these “poor” tenants on social assistance with fancy computers, latest video games and large flat screen and plasma TV’s. How do you afford that on welfare??? By scamming property owners out of rent for months on end…..The system is so broken and crippled – it will never recover without some major changes. I simply refuse to lose one more dollar than absolutely necessary until we can sell off all properties and move into a business that can actually be run like a business! The Manitoba Government and Mr. Gord Macintosh need to own some rental property to experience the discrimination first hand and go and visit some of these properties that cannot afford to pay their rent but have all the latest technology for the tenants’ amusement. Maybe after witnessing what we see on a daily basis, his attitude may become less discriminatory to property owners and landlords. But we all know that will never happen….maybe the election this fall will encourage some much needed change.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: