Quebec Tenants Threaten Rent Strike Against Controversial Housing Bill 31


Quebec tenants are increasingly voicing their intention to initiate a rent strike if the province continues to progress its contentious housing legislation, Bill 31. Introduced in June, the bill proposes to end the current lease transfer system, which gives tenants the ability to turn over their lease to prospective renters. Landlords only have the right to curtail such transfers if there exists a “serious reason.”

The practice of lease transfer or trade is a frequent habit in the Quebec rental landscape. Proponents of housing rights regard it as a strategy for preventing landlords from elevating rents in the province, which is progressively becoming expensive for renters with lower incomes.

Bill 31 remains under negotiation. If ratified without any alterations, landlords would find it easier to halt lease transfers. Certain housing advocates argue this would subsequently result in pricier apartments, prompting claims that it is time for a counteraction.

“We’re having to weigh the cost of passivity against the cost of daring action,” commented Sarah Toews, an individual involved with the Montreal Autonomous Tenants’ Union. This union is contemplating initiating a rent strike – stopping monthly payments – if the government refuses to retract the proposed legislation.

The union’s call has been met with support, with 200 individuals signing up thus far. Should they procure sufficient support, the strike is set to commence on Nov. 1, in synchrony with the hearings of Bill 31. “This is a rent strike of 5,000 tenants. Individuals sign the pledge online to strike provided that 5,000 other tenants also strike,” Toews stated. “The concept is that we can mutually protect each other by reaching a critical mass.”

However, Margaret van Nooten, a housing rights advocate from Project Genesis, expressed her concerns. She asserted that individuals should understand the potential risks associated with a rent strike, as one of the few valid reasons for legal eviction is failure to pay rent.

“I’m worried about tenants who will have a file opened against them at the tribunal possibly,” she noted. A tribunal record, once made, is permanent and could have long-lasting impacts including hindering future housing possibilities in Quebec.

Despite these concerns, Toews holds a firm belief in the strength of numbers, and asserts that the striking tenants plan to reimburse the missed rent eventually. “Historically, most rent strikes have persisted more than a month, and we can delay evictions through collective action, through the jamming of tribunals,” she said.


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