Inspectors alone won’t solve rental housing problems

The City of Montreal has promised to do something about slumlords in the city, who rent woefully substandard and disgusting apartments to poor families. They’re hiring more inspectors to inspect more buildings, and promising to get tough on landlords who are delinquent.

Landlords who don’t make needed repairs will be warned, then fined, and then billed for the work that the city does on its own.

That’s certainly welcome news, but it doesn’t tackle the bigger problem facing both landlords and tenants when it comes to rental housing here: disputes take far too long to resolve.

That problem is with the Régie du logement, a provincial agency that deals with disputes with landlords and tenants. These disputes usually revolve around the same themes:

  • Tenant is not paying rent
  • Landlord is not performing needed repairs
  • Tenant is contesting a rent increase
  • Some other part of the lease agreement has been broken (or is found to have been illegal in the first place)

But depending on the nature of the issue, it might take up to 17 months for the case to be heard at the Régie. This upsets both tenants and landlords who play fair, because in many cases justice delayed is justice denied. When the wait time is longer than the length of the lease in the first place, the wronged parties find it’s easier to just live with the injustice than wait so long for a hearing.

Only a serious investment that will bring down Régie wait times will make a serious difference in some of these cases. It’ll help get rid of both deadbeat tenants and slumlords who rely on the fact that getting rental justice in this province is just too damn hard.

The other problem is that these slum apartments are rented to low-income immigrant families who either don’t know their rights or are afraid to assert them for fear of losing what little they can get at low rent. More low-income housing, combined with serious outreach and information campaigns are needed to solve that problem as well.

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