By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
Last Updated: January 2, 2011 5:20pm Ontario rents will be allowed to edge up by only 0.7% in 2011.
It is the lowest increase in the 35-year history of the province’s rent guideline — the maximum annual rent increase allowable without seeking special approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board for a heftier hike.
“The McGuinty government is providing real protection for tenants by linking the rent increase guideline to the Ontario Consumer Price Index which prevents routine rent increases above the rate of inflation while ensuring landlords can recover increases in their costs,” said Liberal cabinet minister Jim Bradley.
Stuart Henderson, a moderator with the Ontario Landlords Association, which typically represents property owners with less than five units for rent, said the tiny increase has many of the group’s members wondering if they can afford to stay in the business.
“We’re the ones that are paying all these new costs — the price of gas, hydro, the HST — and then we kind of get kicked in the stomach with a 0.7% increase,” he said. “It leaves kind of the worst landlords in the market, people who are renting out fire traps, illegal places.”
The next provincial election will be held in October, and Henderson said the McGuinty government is clearly currying favour with tenants.
“It’s political opportunism,” he charged. “We feel that the McGuinty government is trying to protect against a backlash from tenants in Toronto.”
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, said landlords may be complaining now but they weren’t protesting when the province allowed yearly increases in the range of 5% in the 1990s.
The recession has been very hard on many tenants, and unemployment in Toronto continues to hover at about 10%, he said.
”It’s not renting out a movie at Blockbusters — it’s people’s housing,” Dent said. “Any increase right now during this difficult time is hard for any tenant.”
Also, Ontario does not have “real” rent control because the landlord is only obliged to follow the guideline for an existing tenant, he said.
“If you move into a unit, though, a landlord can charge you whatever he wants,” Dent said. “The last tenant could have been paying $500 a month and they can charge you $2,000.”