Hampstead in defense of tenants: a model to emulate?
Before the Town of Hampstead issues building permits to landlords for work requiring a tenant to move out, it will require them to provide written proof that the tenant consents to relocation.
The regulatory amendment, which will come into force on October 6, thus offers additional protection to tenants against “renovictions”.
The measure was born from an observation made by the municipal administration: tenants are too often left behind. “It was very clear to us that tenants, who represent 20% of the population [de Hampstead]were not part of the community,” said Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi.
“There is not a single member of the city council who is a tenant, or even any candidate [aux dernières élections municipales] who was a tenant », he illustrates
The landlord must provide written proof that the tenant(s) affected by the renovation work on their dwelling have agreed, in writing, to be temporarily rehoused or to voluntarily leave their dwelling.
Town of Hampstead By-law 1004-5
The mayor wants to equalize the balance of power between landlords and tenants. “Owners know their rights at their fingertips. This is not the case for tenants,” he observes.
A beneficial measure, but with shortcomings
This is a step in the right direction, which other municipalities should emulate as access to housing is increasingly difficult, according to the community organizer of the Popular Action Front in Urban Redevelopment ( FRAPRU), Catherine Lussier. The new by-law makes the eviction process more complex for a landlord, and it sends the message to tenants that the municipality has their back.
The spokesperson considers that the amendment is still clearly insufficient. “There can be lots of situations where the tenant could be forced to sign an agreement. The owner could completely empty the building before applying for a permit,” she notes.
Jeremy Levi acknowledges the existence of these workarounds. « [Ces abus] happen because landlords do it illegally and tenants don’t know their rights,” he explains.
The elected official intends to remedy these flaws by informing citizens, which he describes as “the greatest line of defense” for tenants. The City has also put an information tool on housing law online and is also considering sending educational brochures by mail.
In addition, Catherine Lussier deplores the fact that the task of resolving housing issues is delegated to cities, when their powers are too limited for them to be able to implement truly effective measures. “It avoids the piecemeal application [qui différerait selon les municipalités] and prevents tenants from being at the mercy of municipalities that lack the political will,” she adds.
“It is up to the provincial government to manage this kind of situation,” also denounces the mayor of Hampstead. Since provincial laws, which take precedence over municipal by-laws, govern housing issues, the municipalities’ room for maneuver is limited, according to him. He is calling for more powers from the Quebec government, including that cities be able to fine landlords who violate provincial laws.
A by-law that arouses the interest of surrounding municipalities
The City of Montreal and other cities on the island have contacted Hampstead to inquire about the draft by-law and its impacts, analyzing the possibility of replicating it in their respective territories. « A momentum is being created », rejoices the mayor.
“We are interested in this new regulation and we will study it carefully. […] we are determined to multiply innovative initiatives such as the establishment of our certification of responsible landlords, including a rent register,” declared the press attaché for Mayor Valérie Plante, Marikym Gaudreault.