Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quebec Housing: Biased Towards Tenants, Landlords or Neither?

I'm moving my posts off my old blog underabundant.com

MARCH 11th 2009

I have been looking at real estate lately and have been thinking about moving, and I have to talk about this subject. I don't think that the housing laws in Quebec make any sense, I don't think they are really advantageous for anyone and I think it affects how people live a great deal. Whenever you talk to anyone about Quebec rental laws, they typically say that it is tilted towards the renter (especially compared to Ontario). Montreal is generally socialist and typically does tilt towards the subjects with the least power. However, I don't think this is entirely true for Quebec housing. I believe that the housing laws are just a lot more rigid, and not particularly biased towards lessor or lessee.

Montreal is a city that, until a few years ago only allowed people to move out on July 1st of the year aka moving day. All leases had to abide by that date and everyone scrambled to find an apartment like some massively coordinated game of musical chairs. Even though leases now float, a majority of people still move out on July 1st. When looking to buy rental property, I noticed that a majority of the existing leases were for the 1st of July, and the 11 other months were the exception. I don't really see this as something which is very good for anyone. People who want to find a place at any other time get shafted and get a slim pick, while people moving out in July get a huge amount of competition (is this a paradox or an annoying fact?). It would be unfortunate if you somehow have to move in or out at this time, because it will be nearly impossible to find anyway out of that situation. Apparently the Quebec government thought that people should only need to move there in July. This is not good for anyone. Landlords are hit with waves scarcity and abundance and it's likely there are many vacancies during the off-months. For tenants, it's all about timing, and if you're stuck on the wrong month it may take forever to get to the "right" timing.dsc03485

The worst part about this is how Quebec deals with tenants who wish to break their lease in advance of the end date. In short -- they don't. There are three possible reasons to leave a lease early: you are moving to low rent housing, you are moving to a retirement home or if you cannot live there anymore due to a handicap. Any other reason is completely invalid and the lease is immutable. There is no way to get out of a lease early unless you "reach an agreement" with the landlord or sign the lease over to another party. This puts you into very grimy waters. I have several times asked different landlords about this. Typically they "graciously" offered to receive 2-3 months rent as payment for leaving early. I would say that 2400$ is not really much of a favor, and it's not very helpful of the government to wash their hands of the situation.

The rule is that leases are a trap. It is really hard to get out of them even with a plan.

To end a lease the tenant has to notify his landlord two months before the close date. If he does not do this it auto renews and the tenant is liable for another year's worth of rent. The worst part is that if the landlord can send a rental increase form as early as 6 months before the end of the lease; and if he does this you have one month to reply as to whether you are taking the increase or moving out. This means that you might have only been living somewhere 6 months before you have to decide about what you'll be doing six months from that time.

Your one option is to try and assign your lease to another individual. This way you can move out whenever you wish, and they take over your lease (which is possibly set at the wrong "cycle" time). The problem for tenants is that they really have to work at getting a lease assigned, and they couldn't have told the landlord that the lease is not being renewed at the end of the term; because then the person who is assigned the lease could only stay for <6>

One time I tried to assign my lease to a nice couple from Houston Texas. My landlord said that he wanted to meet them first. I ended up finding out that he took them around and showed them OTHER apartments he had for rent. I think he was possibly the biggest douche I have ever met. Edouard, if you are reading this, fuck you.


In Ontario you can give 2 months notice for leaving and the landlord has to take it. I think 2 months is time enough for the landlord to find a tenant. No one is really going to move every 2 months just for the hell of it; moving to another apartment is already inherently difficult and stressful. So why lock in tenants so tightly?

Every year in Ontario, the government issues the maximum increase percentage that rent can increase. The landlord can only increase the rent to that amount and no greater. This year is is 1.8% for Ontario landlords. In Quebec, it is 0.6% ... HOWEVER the landlord can also increase it much more than that if they do renovations on their property. I almost rented an apartment downtown for 750$ until I found out that the rent would be increasing to 840$ in one year due to their renovation work on the parking garage and elevators. This is an increase of 12%! I don't believe many people want to live in a place that has such unpredictable rent values.

Quebec's solution is that you can always grieve to the Regie Du Logement if the landlord is acting illegally or unfairly. Is this really a solution? It really isn't. If you received a notice of increase of 12% and you think it's not valid, you can to renew your lease with that landlord, and take them to the Regie. It makes the renters into a gamblers. You have to gamble that you will win your case that you shouldn't have to pay so much, and if you lose, you've already signed a lease to stay there another year.

In short I don't really think that Quebec has any bias towards either the renter or the landlord. I think that it just has a very crude, bureaucratic system that is not flexible enough for anyone.


Blogger chilsonmixon said...

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January 6, 2012 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Joseph Russo said...

Had a great three day Holiday in Quebec City with our friends.
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September 29, 2016 at 12:14 AM  

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