Tens of thousands of tenants inthe city are hoping a divisional court panel will do the right thing and tell landlords where to go.On Friday (June 28), the court reserved judgment on a request by some 22 tenant groups to do away with a section of the Landlord Protection Act that they say unfairly allows landlords to ask for rent increases above the yearly 2.9 per cent guideline to cover utility costs.
The practice, tenant activists say, amounts to "double-dipping," since many landlords have already been approved for above-guideline increases to cover utilities.
They're questioning why their rents should stay inflated because of energy price spikes at Christmas; the cost of energy has since tumbled well below last year's peak.
Under the Rent Control Act, tenants used to be able to ask for rent reductions once utility prices dropped, but not any more. The Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal has thrown out dozens of such requests, prompting tenants to appeal to the divisional court.
Landlords deny they're double-dipping.
Says Vince Brescia, president of the Fair Rental Policy Organization, a landlord industry association, "Everybody in our industry has experienced very significant increases in their overall energy costs over the last few years, and at some point they're going to have to pass those costs on."
Brescia claims landlords are paying the same energy rates they were last year, despite an average 15 per cent decrease in overall heating costs last winter.
While the tribunal says it's only applying the law as set out in the Tenant Protection Act, Scott Harcourt, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, insists tenants will eventually get energy savings passed on to them "over the long term."
He says overall reductions in energy costs will mean reductions in the rent increases landlords can ask for at the tribunal.