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Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia government considering options for rent cap post-2023

The progressive Conservative government is not ruling out some form of rent control beyond the planned lifting of the current 2% rent cap in December 2023.

Secretary Colton LeBlanc is responsible for Service Nova Scotia and therefore also for the Residential Tenancies Act. In a post-Cabinet scrum on Thursday, he was asked about landlords using fixed-term leases to circumvent the rent cap.

LeBlanc said it’s “a little bit frustrating” to hear it’s still happening. He said the government was “aggressively examining the need for a regulation enforcement department”. New rules to protect renters are coming Friday, LeBlanc said, but they won’t solve the problem of short-term leases.

LeBlanc was also asked about the rent cap. The former Liberal government imposed this cap during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the PC government extended it to December 31, 2023.

“We know, of course, that with the current rent cap that we extended as we are phasing out the government in December, there are a number of factors to consider and discussions are ongoing about the next steps that we are pursuing as a government,” LeBlanc said .

LeBlanc said the government is speaking to renters and landlords about the issue.

“We need to understand that the decision to extend the rent cap had an impact and subsequent decisions to manipulate it, extend it or let it go into the sunset will have an impact on Nova Scotians,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc did not rule out a system that links hikes to inflation.

“All options are currently on the table in this regard,” he said.

LeBlanc said landlords must give four months’ notice of rent increases, so the decision must be made soon. But he wouldn’t commit to a deadline.

“There must be time to communicate rent increases, so I want to make sure we give proper notice to tenants and landlords. So I would say that in due course we will have more to say.”

The opposition says the government must take care of it

NDP leader Claudia Chender told reporters the government must close the short-term lease gap to address the “fundamental power imbalance between landlords and tenants.” And the province needs a predictable rent cap system, Chender said.

“What we need is a system that we can anticipate, that we understand, and that provides clarity for both landlords and tenants. And that system is a kind of rental cap that’s in place in most other provinces in this country,” Chender said.

“If the rent cap is lifted without any thought as to what that will do, we will see this province’s homeless population skyrocket.”

The NDP has advocated a system that links permissible rent increases to inflation and gives the cabinet the power to intervene.

Liberal Deputy Leader Kelly Regan did not advocate a rent cap but said the government must act now.

“We need something. I don’t know what it looks like. But we need something,” Regan said.

“It doesn’t have to happen in the summer or anything. This has to happen now. This is important for Nova Scotians who rent and it’s important for landlords too, but for people who rent it’s going to have a big, big impact and they need to know, like yesterday.”

Guaranteed shelter for the homeless during the cold snap

Meanwhile, with wind chill temperatures in the -30s forecast for this weekend, Community Services Secretary Karla MacFarlane guaranteed a bed for every unaccommodated person who wants one.

“We’ve certainly stepped up our efforts knowing what temperatures Mother Nature is going to bring us,” MacFarlane said.

“We feel very prepared and definitely want to recognize that for someone in a precarious situation, there is a bed, a safe place to stay.”

MacFarlane said the shelters would open on Friday and stay open until Sunday depending on the temperature. “We may have to extend it into next week as well.”

She said they would spread the word through politicians, service providers, navigators, libraries and search and rescue services.

“If they want a bed, they will have a bed,” MacFarlane said.

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