Newfoundland Tenants to Mr. Trimper: "Don't Forget About Us!"

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A number of recent stories in the media have highlighted the unfortunate situation some landlords find themselves in when they rent to "bad tenants", and significant damage is caused to the rental unit. The Government has now indicated that they will be looking to update the Residential Tenancies Act sometime "soon".

While the recent stories do give us a reason to be concerned, and it's easy to sympathize with these landlords, the recent media stories have all but forgotten about the issues faced by tenants in NL.

The solution to our current problems is not one-sided. The issues faced by landlords are no more important than the issues faced by tenants, and any updates to the law needs to provide better protections for both landlords and tenants. Sine there is already a "protect the landlord" petition that has been widely circulated, and mentioned in media reports, I've decided to put together a petition to remind everyone that tenants deserve protections too.

There are a significant number of cases here in NL where a tenant is treated very poorly by their landlord. There are numerous reports of landlords not following the Act, being unreasonable, and in some cases blatantly violating the human rights of their tenants. This needs to stop.

When you look at the big picture, and see the issues faced by landlords AND tenants in the province, it seems unfair that media reports, and many comments online, focus solely on landlord issues. A story about a few landlords losing tens of thousands of dollars makes for a better headline than a tenant that is not able to get their damage deposit back, as an example. While the amounts of money landlords have been required to pay to repair damages caused by "bad tenants" is staggering, so to is the amount of money that tenants have lost because their landlord didn't follow the proper procedure and refused to return a deposit. If we were to truly know the amount of money tenants have lost, just in cases like this, the number would be far higher than most people assume. Unfortunately many tenants are not aware of their rights, and landlords take advantage of this. In a poll of tenants on Facebook, landlords failing to return a deposit was listed as one of the top concerns.

The Residential Tenancies Act allows a landlord to evict a tenant for "no reason", and tenants do not have security of tenancy in this province. This leads to the rights of many tenants being violated. It is illegal to discriminate against someone for being in a same-sex relationship, as one example, yet landlords HAVE evicted tenants for this very reason. While normally this would be a human rights violation, landlords skirt the law by serving a "no reason" eviction and terminating the tenancy by providing written notice. In one case the landlord told the tenant in-person that they were being evicted for being a same-sex couple, yet didn't specify a reason on the written termination notice, to avoid the possibility of a human rights complaint.

When a landlord can evict without a reason, it leaves it wide open for the evictions to be based on grounds protected by human rights legislation. Legislation like the Human Rights Act are meant to ensure a very basic level of protections for all human beings, yet the way our Residential Tenancies Act is set up a tenants human rights can be violated easily, with little recourse for the tenant.

We even see a fair number of cases where people are listing a rental unit as "no kids" and one landlord said she won't rent to seniors because she doesn't want anyone to die in her apartment. We had a girl evicted because her elderly landlord didn't like that the tenant dyed her hair pink, a same-sex couple evicted for being a same-sex couple, and cases where drunken landlords have harassed their tenants. We also heard of a case where a landlord let a tenant's dog off of it's chain, so it could run away, due to a dispute between the landlord and tenant.

There are many other issues faced by tenants as well, including poor maintenance, lack of repairs, landlord showing up and entering the rental unit unannounced, to name a few. A tenant came home from work early one day to find her landlord going through her belongings. His answer? "You caught me!" and a smile.

At a time when the Government is opening up the Residential Tenancies Act for changes, with many landlords calling for extra protections in their own interests, and the media seemingly ignoring the plight of many tenants in the province, it is more important now than ever for tenants to speak up.

It is important for the Government to acknowledge that tenants face many issues in this province as well. It's important for the Government to acknowledge that any changes to the law need to take both sides into consideration, and that the new law should be fair, and not favour the landlord or the tenant any more than the other. It's important for the Government to acknowledge that a fair and balanced Residential Tenancies Act, with fair protections for both sides, is what is in the best interest of everyone in the province.

The time for tenants to stand up and say "Hey, don't forget about us!" is now. We need to let the government know now, before any changes are made, that we expect fair and equal treatment under the law.

These changes have been a long time coming, let's make sure we get them right!

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