Rental legislation review rests on election outcome

Posted
June 6, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

In Toronto, election campaigns are among those rare moments when tenants can wield considerable power.

Nearly half of all households in this city rent, meaning tenants constitute a voting bloc that parties ignore at their peril, advocates and activists say.

That's perhaps why local candidates vying for power in Thursday's provincial election are making a pitch to reform tenancy laws critics say put too much power in the hands of landlords.

Speaking to dozens of constituents in a church basement in the Toronto-St. Paul's riding recently, Liberal candidate Jess Spindler said her party has its sights set on a piece of rental legislation that has long vexed tenants. The Residential Tenancies Act allows for something called an above-the-guideline increase -- that is, it lets landlords apply to pass on major repair and renovation costs to tenants through rent hikes.

Tenant groups allege that landlords use such increases to force people out of lower-cost units so they can hike the rent. Landlord groups have defended the rules, stating that maintenance costs money and overly tight rules will cool development in a market where more rental units are desperately needed.

Spindler says the law puts tenants at an unfair disadvantage. "(The law) often puts tenants in the position of having to defend themselves ... and not the other way around," Spindler said, during an evening debate at the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church at Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. on Wednesday.

In the following days, Spindler doubled down, announcing that if elected she would launch a private member's bill to try to ban the practice outright. Speaking at her constituency office on St. Clair Ave. W., she said she was confident the bill would get traction, no matter what party is in power.

That party is not likely to be the Liberals, polls indicate. Even Kathleen Wynne has acknowledged she would not be returned to the premier's office. Yet Spindler is right that hers is not the only party offering to change the rental law.

 

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