How to handle a rent increase

Éducaloi and CAPE host second renters workshop

This weekends’ workshop will concentrate on the legal protections tenants have concerning rent increases. Photo: Matias Brunet-Kirk – NEWSFIRST 

Many renters in Park Extension have either already or will soon be receiving a notice that their rent will soon go up. With most leases renewing on Jul. 1, owners often take this opportunity to increase rent prices in their units.

While many questions exist on what is and isn’t permitted with rent increases, Comité d’action de Parc-Extension is teaming up with Éducaloi for a second time to host a free workshop on the matter.

Taking place at the William Hingston Centre this Saturday, Mar. 26 at 2:00 PM, participants will be able to take part in an informative session to learn more about rent increases and understand how to handle a situation where they receive a notice.

The workshop is part of the Knowledge is power series jointly hosted by both organizations. Spearheaded by CAPE organizer and law student Rizwan Ahmad Khan, it aims to provide residents with the knowledge and skills to better defend their housing rights. 

“There’s a lot of emotions around it that I think is really important to deal with, instead of just telling people what their rights are,”

Rent increases

This weeks’ workshop will concentrate on giving practical experience to participants, by conducting role-playing exercises and simulations so tenants are prepared if they face a rent increase in the coming weeks. 

With the limit set at three months before the lease renewal, owners have until Mar. 31 to send their rent increase notices to their tenants. If these are not received by a tenant before the cutoff date the lease automatically renews under the current conditions.

Tenants also have the right to refuse a rent increase that they feel is exorbitant or that they cannot afford. Renters have one month to refuse the rent increase, which usually results in a hearing with the Tribunal Administratif du Logement (TAL) who set an appropriate increase.

“We want to tell people what their rights are and if they want to refuse, to have a way of doing that that hopefully feels a little bit less stressful,” said Alain Deschamps, a lawyer and plain language specialist at Éducaloi who is also organizing the event.

Alain Deschamps is a lawyer and plain language specialist at Éducaloi. Photo: Alain Deschamps via Éducaloi

Role-playing workshop

The workshop will start with a quick informational session about tenants’ rights but will also include a section with role-playing and practical scenarios. 

“A lot of the teaching will be done through the actual scenarios that we’re going to have people act out,” specified Deschamps.

Participants will group up in teams and enact situations where an owner serves a tenant with a rent increase, that may or may not be legal. Organizers would then provide the information and coaching necessary on how to react in that situation.

“We give them all the information they need, some tips and tricks and a toolbox that they can use, and then we go back and do it again, but this time they have more information and they have a better ability to react to the situation,” continued Deschamps.

Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE) has long advocated for more protections for renters in Parc-Extension. Photo: CAPE 

Human component

Although the workshop has a major informational component, it aims to give tenants the practical and interpersonal skills to deal with situations that may be confrontational. 

“It doesn’t necessarily only revolve around people’s legal rights. It’s about the fact they’re in a relationship with the landlord and they don’t want to cause problems or conflicts,” added Deschamps.

The lawyer highlighted that some participants at the previous workshop on evictions were surprised by the stress and anxiety they felt at acting out a confrontation with a landlord. 

By living through that stress and anxiety in a safe space, Deschamps said that participants would feel more comfortable if it happened in a real situation. “There’s a lot of emotions around it that I think is really important to deal with, instead of just telling people what their rights are,” he added.

Marginalized population

Rizwan Ahmad Khan is a law student at l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and has been volunteering with CAPE for over a year now. With the support of Éducaloi, he is one of the organizers of the project. 

“In Park Extension we have a very marginalized population. 60 percent of people here are from an immigration background. We have a lot of people who are refugees in the neighbourhood, we have a lot of foreign students also in the neighbourhood, and they don’t know their rights,” remarked Khan. 

“It’s easier for landlords to bully tenants, or just make them believe that what they’re saying is the truth,” continued Khan, explaining that the workshop series helps to dispel certain myths and educates tenants on the legal protections that exist. 

Rizwan Ahmad Khan is a Parc-Extension resident as well as a law student and community organizer at CAPE. Photo: Rizwan Ahmad Khan via Facebook.

How to participate

Held at the William Hingston Centre Saturday, Mar. 26, the second workshop will be the first to be held in person since they started early this year. The previous edition had to be held virtually due to COVID-19 health restrictions.

“Childcare will be provided as well as food for participants so people can come and if they have families they can have their kids taken care of while we do this. We are hoping to make it as accessible as possible,” added Deschamps. 

Although the event is free and open to all, people are asked to contact CAPE either by phone or email to register. More information on the workshop and housing rights is available on both Éducaloi and CAPEs’ websites.