Legislative overhaul sparks housing anxiety amongst students

Protesters holding a “Rent Strike” sign as they walk in Préfontaine Park / Photo by Miet Verhauwaert

Lease transfer, an indirect method of rent control, may no longer be a viable option to renting students

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s new housing legislature, Bill 31, is sending ripples across the housing market as students must consider moving come their next lease renewal period.

Introduced in early summer, the bill has been under scrutiny by landlords and tenants alike for its changes. Amongst them is the removal of Article 7, which gives landlords permission to deny lease assignments between tenants, better known as lease transfers.

Although said to be fair and balanced by Housing Minister France-Elaine Duranceau, protests across Quebec by tenant rights groups have been organized to argue otherwise.

“It is a direct attack on our right to affordable housing,” Ria Mayer said, a student organizer for the Concordia Research and Education Workers’ Union (CREW-CSN), who attended one of these protests. “It kind of spits in the face of tenants everywhere.”

In Préfontaine Park on Sept. 16, a demonstration was held by the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) to protest the latest bill and the increased cost of living. 

Mayer explained that for years, those of lower-income housing could rely on lease transfers to artificially maintain a stable cost of living while circumventing rent increases by avoiding the lease renewal period. 

Mayer added that she had the lease transfers to thank for her brother’s current living space, an opportunity she lamented over, as her peers may no longer be able to do the same soon.

“For some students it is a way to have access to housing for the first time,” Cedric Dussault, spokesperson for RCLALQ, said. “These students often don’t have anyone to back them up for their lease.”

Protesters marching down the street against Bill 31’s unfair housing laws. / Photo by Miet Verhauwaert 

Dussault explained that although lease transfers won’t be disappearing outright, the process will become much more threatening for tenants, as landlords would be given the power to nullify a lease. 

Dussault added that this addition to lease transfer law will in turn create a greater disparity in power between tenant and landlord.

Adia Giddings, an assistant worker at Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Center (HOJO), said that she’s already witnessed the effects first-hand of the proposed bill on some students.

“We’re seeing most students go to court over their lease transfers right now, landlords are just outright denying it, they’re coming up with excuses,” Giddings said. “So, all of these types of issues have already started.”

Despite protests recently emerging throughout the province, Giddings claims that landlord groups such as the Landlord Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec (CORPIQ) have discussed enacting a bill to render lease transfers less viable for almost two years.

Last week’s demonstration lasted almost four hours, with separate marches taking place simultaneously in Montreal, Quebec City, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, and Sherbrooke.

With the Bill expected to be debated over later in the fall , only time will tell if the protestors’ actions will make the desired mark.

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