Across Canada, years of drastic increases to rental housing costs have put renters at the centre of a housing affordability crisis. Recent data show that this is a serious concern for 95 per cent of people in Canada, and two-thirds are in favour of strengthening rent regulation measures to help tackle this issue. Yet today, only six provinces have rent regulation policies in place, and the regulations that do exist vary widely across the country. The need to implement strong rent regulations that prevent practices such as rent gouging has never been greater. Here we bring you a snapshot of some of the challenging realities faced by Canada’s renters. All of these stories were originally reported by the media from across Canada.
In provinces where no rent regulations exist, renters can be subject to exorbitant increases.
In Calgary, 68-year-old Mary Clark told CTV News that she received a $400 per month increase. She told reporter Timm Bruch that her and her husband live on a fixed income and are skipping meals to save money. “We end up with about $35 each. What do you get for $10 in the grocery store?” Another Calgary resident, Courtney Townsend, told CBC News that she finally secured a provincial rental subsidy to help keep her and her kids in their home, but then she received a rent increase of $800. “I don’t understand why there’s no rent control…$800 all in one shot is just outrageous,” she told reporter Karina Zapata.
In Saskatoon, Peter Davey told Global News that he received a $350 rent increase. He shared with reporter Brody Langager that another tenant in the building received a 50 per cent increase, adding “a lot of people are frightened to talk because they think they might be evicted right away, it’s sad.”
Similar increases are seen in New Brunswick, where more than 40 per cent of people are spending a third of their income on housing. Greg Pringle told CBC News that without tribunal intervention, he’s facing a 34 per cent rent hike. He told reporter Robert Jones “That’s going to be extreme hardship.”
In provinces and territories where rent is regulated, weaknesses and loopholes in the rules often incentivize landlords to evict tenants so that they can raise rents.
One Toronto renter told the West End Phoenix that she received a rent increase from her landlord that was well above the legal limit. When she pushed back, she was told by her landlord’s real estate agent that her landlord could serve her an “own-use” eviction notice as a way to force her to move out. “He explicitly told me that my landlord could say he wanted to move in, and I’d have to move out,” she told reporter Sakeina Syed. Toronto sisters Yumna and Khadeja Farooq told the Toronto Star that they received a $7,000 rent increase notice because of a loophole in Ontario’s rent regulation policy that exempts units first rented after November 15, 2018 from the province’s rent increase guideline.
Renters in British Columbia face similar challenges. CBC News reported that 16 per cent of renters were paying more than 50 per cent of their income on shelter. Because rents are not regulated between tenancies, the Daily Hive reported that newly moved-in renters are paying over 30 per cent more than renters who have been in their unit for one year or longer. Vancouver renter Reina Goto moved out of her unit under B.C.’s caretaker provision, but no caretaker moved in and her unit was instead relisted at a 50 per cent increase.
Despite a temporary rent cap in Nova Scotia, Global News reported that renovictions and fixed-term leases are pushing renters out of their homes and contributing to the rising number of unhoused people. Dartmouth renter Sarah Whynot told reporter Megan King that her fixed-term lease was not renewed when she questioned a hefty $400-600 price increase for her unit. “I questioned it because of the rent cap, and then a week later — not even — a notice on my door saying, ‘We’re not having you. You need to leave by June 30th.’”
Yukon also allows landlords to impose fixed-term leases with expiry dates. Despite a temporary rent cap being imposed, Yukon News reported that rents still rose by 15.4 per cent in Whitehorse and 14.4 per cent across Yukon over the two-year period since the cap was implemented. Like in other provinces where rents are not regulated between tenancies, both rent caps only apply to new renters.
Provinces that do regulate rents between tenancies have their own challenges.
In Manitoba, the rent increase guideline does not apply to a range of unit types and can be circumvented through an above-guideline rent increase (AGI) application to the Residential Tenancies Branch (RTB), which according to recent data in a Freedom of Information request, they are overwhelmingly likely to get. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that in the first half of 2022, the RTB permitted landlords to raise rents by an average of nine per cent, with increases ranging between five and 126 per cent. Winnipeg resident Al Wiebe told reporter Danielle Da Silva that despite a zero per cent rent increase guideline for 2023, the RTB approved a 15 per cent increase for his building.
In Prince Edward Island, landlords can apply for AGIs at the discretion of a tribunal. CBC reported that landlords hurried to apply for steep increases before the province’s Residential Tenancy Act came into place in 2023, which would cap the allowable AGI at an additional 3 per cent per year. Cory Pater, of the tenants’ rights group P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, told reporter Shane Ross “It’s been an almost astronomical increase for some people. We’ve had folks who have had to move because they’re on [a] fixed income, where they just can’t afford it.”
When affordable housing options are not available, renters may be forced to live in precarious, inadequate and sometimes unsafe housing.
CBC News reported that seven per cent of B.C. renters live in units in need of major repairs and eleven percent live in overcrowded conditions.
Nunatsiaq News reported that in Nunavut, 37 per cent of the population live in homes needing major repairs, are not the right size, or are not affordable. In 2021, Nunavut’s MP heard first-hand about the dire conditions many people were living in, including overcrowded homes, crumbling walls, broken windows and doors, and black mould.
In Toronto, an international student spoke out about the deplorable conditions his rental unit. He sleeps on a mattress on the floor next to another renter. “First few months I shared a mattress with somebody because there was no mattress available at that time,” he told CTV News reporter Beth Macdonell.
Evictions and excessive rent increases disproportionately impact vulnerable community members in Canada.
Norris Turner, a blind 74-year-old man from Edmonton, was forced out of his home after receiving a $630 increase that would have forced him to spend his savings on rent. “I was amazed and in awe that they would do something like that,” he told CBC News reporter Julia Wong. Calgary renter Astrid Nickerson told CTV News reporter Timm Bruch that she received a $300 increase. “It’s extremely difficult. I’m a disabled, single mom so I live off of different social supports and this is my first year after leaving a shelter and abusive relationship…I’ve just kind of been going to the food bank more and cutting back on different things.”
Paula Hudson-Lunn, who lives in Nelson, B.C., told CBC News that at 71 years old, she is having to look for new housing in a housing market with a 0.6 per cent vacancy rate. She says that even a smaller, less suitable place than her current home will cost her more than she can afford on her fixed income. “I may have to find full-time work in what should be my retirement years,” she shared.
In Toronto, jes sachse told CBC News that she was served with an N12 eviction notice in 2022 and spent more than a year fighting the eviction through the Landlord and Tenant Board. As a disabled artist, sachse told reporters Lane Harrison and Olivia Bowden “I, ultimately, was nervous. Having accessibility concerns, like, how possible would it be for me to find housing right away?”
Strong rent regulations are needed to solve this crisis.
These stories clearly show how renters across Canada continue to face growing housing insecurity due to a lack of protection against excessive rents. As a result, countless lower income renters are forgoing basics such as food and medication, while others are forced to live in poorly maintained or overcrowded homes that put their health at risk. Renters across the country are living in fear of losing their homes. It’s time for our governments to implement strong rent regulations to help ensure that all renters in Canada have secure homes.
Join us in calling on all provincial and territorial governments to take action on affordability by implementing strong rent regulation.