Despite vigorous protests from provincial residents, Quebec’s Housing Minister, France-Élaine Duranceau, successfully ushered the contentious Bill 31 through the Quebec National Assembly.
Given the prevailing housing crisis in the province, much like the rest of Canada, many tenants are apprehensive about their prospects for accessing affordable housing in the upcoming year.
Bill 31: How Tenant Rights May Be Protected
Bill 31 incorporates additional provisions to enhance tenant protection in Quebec, particularly in cases of eviction where landlords are liable to provide financial compensation.
This financial compensation encompasses moving-related expenses and an amount equivalent to a month’s rent for each year of residence in the property. With a stipulated minimum period of three months and a maximum of 24 months. The provision also empowers tenants to register complaints with the Regie du Logement for additional financial compensation if they believe it is justified.
Under Bill 31, landlords will also bear the responsibility of transparency concerning rent increases. They will be mandated to provide rental applicants with a three-year projection of anticipated rent increases for the dwelling.
Despite the proactive measures in place to safeguard tenants within the new legislation, proposed amendments introduce a provision that legalizes security deposits. This further exacerbates the challenge of upfront costs for renters, especially in the context of an ongoing rental affordability and housing crisis.
Bill 31: Lease Transfer Clause
Provisions within Bill 31 are presently undergoing scrutiny and are open to further amendments. However, Housing Minister Duranceu has asserted that the contentious lease transfer clause will persist. Once Bill 31 is enacted, landlords will have the authority to decline lease transfers.
Lease transfers have traditionally been a popular method of renting in the province, allowing prospective tenants to circumvent rent increases. Typically, these transfers take place before the lease expiration date.
As per Duranceu’s statement, lease transfers will not be entirely eliminated. Instead, the clause grants landlords increased decision-making authority. In the event of a rejected lease transfer, tenants in the lease will have the option to terminate their lease without incurring financial obligations.
Quebec’s Housing Crisis And Possible Repercussions Of Bill 31
Quebec is currently experiencing one of the most rapidly expanding rental housing markets, yet struggles with a housing crisis fueled by a shortage of available dwellings.
The severity of the housing crisis is underscored by the imbalance between supply and demand, evaluated through the ‘vacancy rate’ metric. In Quebec, a 3% rate is considered a satisfactory benchmark. However, according to the CMHC, the rental vacancy rate in 2023 dwindled to 1.9%, marking a decline from 2.5% in 2022. Notably, areas such as Gaspé witnessed a complete absence of available rental housing, while major urban centers like Montreal and Quebec City reported rates ranging from 1.5% to 2%.
Critics of Bill 31 emphasize that granting landlords the ultimate authority in lease transfers diminishes tenants’ likelihood of securing affordable housing, thereby limiting their options. This is particularly concerning given the context of the housing crisis. To illustrate, the November 2023 Rental Market Report from Rentals.ca indicated that the average cost for a two-bedroom (4 ½) in Montreal is $2,266. Additionally, the average condominium is priced at $2,486, and the accompanying vacancy rate is 1.6%.
Bill 31 in Quebec, despite serious opposition, reflects a significant development in the ongoing struggle between tenant rights and housing policy. The bill, led by Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau, introduces a range of measures aimed at protecting tenants, particularly in cases of eviction. However, the controversial lease-transfer clause and the legalization of security deposits have raised concerns among critics, who argue that these provisions could worsen the challenges faced by tenants in accessing affordable housing.
As Quebec struggles with a housing crisis fueled by a shortage of dwellings and a rapidly expanding rental market, the repercussions of Bill 31 remain a focal point of debate. The diminished vacancy rates and rising rental costs further emphasize the urgency of addressing the complex intersection of legislative decisions and the practical realities faced by residents. The ongoing scrutiny of Bill 31 and the mobilization of community support centers and activists underscore the significance of finding a balanced and equitable approach to address the pressing issues within Quebec’s housing landscape.