June 20, 2024


Built General Tough

Rising rents: landlords illegally prohibit lease assignments

Étienne Lapointe is one of those tenants who hit a wall when he wanted to give up his lease. He found a new apartment that suits him better a few weeks ago and wants to save the next tenant a big rent increase.

Since he has already renewed his lease for the year 2021-2022, two scenarios are available to him to free him from his contractual responsibilities.

The first is the termination of the lease, which returns the apartment to the owner. The latter will then be free to choose a new tenant by starting a new lease. The second scenario is the assignment of lease, which allows a candidate that he selects, and that the owner approves, to take over his current lease under the same conditions and, above all, at the same price.

After reflection, Étienne Lapointe opts for the assignment of the lease, even if this requires more formalities.

I am aware of the issues, I know that rents are going up in Montreal. So, I absolutely had to do my part to keep rents affordable, he explains.

But he quickly encountered resistance from his building manager. After an unsuccessful first attempt to send it by registered letter, Étienne decides to use a bailiff to ensure that the notice of lease transfer is received.

Of course, this whole process is a little stressful. I would have preferred it to go easier, admits the student of literature.

On the phone, I mentioned to her that I was contacting her for the assignment of the lease and it was a rather categorical dismissal from her side. She said : “We don’t do that.”

A quote from:Étienne Lapointe, tenant

A few days after sending the bailiff, Étienne received a letter from his manager invoking in particular major repairs needed in [son] apartment and [son] building to refuse his request.

Rather, he was offered three months’ rent so that he could terminate his lease and he was given the option of subletting the apartment to his candidate, but for a single year, when there was never any question of sublet on Etienne’s side.

A young man seated, from behind, in front of his computer where a Notice of Assignment of Lease form is open.

Étienne Lapointe will have to go before the Administrative Court of Housing to defend his right to the assignment of the lease.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Yves Chartrand

Me Antoine Morneau-Sénéchal, lawyer specializing in housing law, affirms that the refusal to make an assignment of lease due to is not a valid reason and that this argument does not override the tenant’s right to lease assignment.

Assignment of lease, a right for all tenantss

It is not uncommon to see landlords refusing lease assignments for bad reasons, especially since we are in a context of heating of the real estate market, explains Me Morneau-Sénéchal.

Many landlords, seeing rental market prices increase, prefer to avoid lease assignments, which prevent them from increasing the price of rent, he adds. Others prefer to avoid them because it prevents them from choosing their next tenant themselves.

It is therefore important that tenants know their rights in matters of lease assignment, according to the lawyer.

Tenants must know that the assignment of the lease is a right that belongs to them, and that unless there is a serious reason such as the insolvency of the person or the bad history of the person taking over the lease, it cannot be refused.

A quote from:Antoine Morneau-Sénéchal, lawyer specializing in housing law

When the reasons for refusing the assignment do not relate to the candidate himself, that the candidate is solid, [le refus du propriétaire] will be rejected by the court, assures the author of the book Residential rental.

What is an assignment of lease?

The assignment of a lease allows a tenant to free himself from the obligations related to his lease by transferring it to another person who takes it over as is, under the same conditions. A lease assignment is generally used when the tenant decides to permanently vacate their rental accommodation. The landlord cannot refuse an assignment of a lease without serious reasons.

What is a sublet?

A sublet is most often temporary. A tenant who sublets his apartment to a third party remains responsible for his lease. When the sublet contract is over, the tenant can return to their apartment. The owner cannot refuse a sublet without serious reasons.

What is a lease termination?

A lease termination can take place at any time during the lease and terminates the rental agreement signed between the tenant and the landlord, with the latter’s agreement.

Online tenant solidarity movement

In the last year, the average rent of all rental apartments in the Montreal metropolitan area increased by 6%, the largest increase in nearly 30 years, according to CMHC.

The spokesperson for the Regroupement des committees logement et des associations de tenants du Québec (RCLALQ), Maxime Roy-Allard, deplores the impact of this price increase on the rental market.

It really is a critical situation. I think we are losing the battle for affordable housing, he denounces. It is not normal for rents to increase by 5%, 6% per year while inflation is around 1% to 2%. There is something wrong!

As if to form a united front against this phenomenon, Maxime Roy-Allard says he has noticed a renewed interest from tenants in the assignment of the lease.

Clearly, at the moment, there is a buzz around the assignment of lease. Many tenants are interested in this way to find housing, to show solidarity and fight against excessive rent increases.

A quote from:Maxime Roy Allard, spokesperson for the Regroupement des committees logement et des associations de tenants du Québec

Maxime Roy-Allard indicates that the RCLALQ intends to launch a campaign next year on the theme “Give me your lease” in order to make tenants aware of this tool available to them.

Claudia Leduc, who is the manager of Facebook groups for mutual assistance between tenants, has also noticed a growing interest in lease assignments.

A woman wearing green glasses and a dress poses, smiling, in front of Laurier Park in Montreal.

Claudia Leduc, manager of several Facebook groups for mutual aid and tenants’ rights defense

Photo: Radio-Canada / Fannie Bussières McNicoll

It is one of the few tools, still too little known, that tenants have to counter rising rents and the housing crisis at the moment., underlines the one who moderates the group J’te cede mon bail – whose number of members, which amounts to 17,000, continues to increase.

We can really see the effectiveness of these support groups at the moment. We have to take back our power as a tenant and one of the most important that we have is to be able to make a lease assignment. […] So you really have to use it as much as possible.

A quote from: Claudia Leduc, Facebook group manager for mutual aid and tenants’ rights defense

“You have to hold out”

Like Étienne Lapointe, Camille Bardou encountered resistance when she told her landlord that she wanted to transfer the lease after buying a condo in another neighborhood.

He was fiercely opposed to the lease assignment, she explains. Me, it caused me stress to proceed when he did not agree.

Feeling frustrated and constrained in her rights, she did not know what her recourse was. And I didn’t want to embark on big steps, with costs and deadlines, she adds.

A young woman smiles at the camera.  She poses in front of the entrance to her apartment.

Camille Bardou really enjoyed living in her Montreal apartment. She wants the tenant who will follow her to benefit at the same price.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Fannie Bussières McNicoll

Camille finally gave up on the idea of ​​starting a lease assignment process.

However, she intends to protect the next tenant of her apartment from an excessive rent increase. The solution? Leave him a copy of his lease, so he knows how much his rent was.

The RCLALQ, who is also demanding from the government the establishment of a mandatory public and free rent register, welcomes Camille’s reflex. The campaign Pass me your lease in progress since mid-May encourages this practice.

I know this is a small scale gesture. But I decided to do this so that, more and more, people are aware, that tenants ask themselves real questions if they are really paying the price they should be paying.

A quote from:Camille Bardou, tenant

Étienne, for his part, is determined to go ahead with his lease assignment, despite the pressure he feels to do otherwise. He says he made an appointment at the Administrative Housing Tribunal. This is something important and I want to continue this fight. I want to go all the way and I want to have my rights respected, he insists.

His case will be assessed by the Tribunal on June 30.

According to Me Morneau-Sénéchal, requests are generally heard urgently. In a few weeks, we will have a solution to the dispute, he assures. The fear of delays should therefore not discourage a tenant from undertaking a lease assignment.

You just have to hold onto your end a little bit. But when we know that we have the right on our side, it’s a lot easier to hold out!

A quote from:Claudia Leduc, Facebook group manager for mutual aid and tenants’ rights defense

The right should be clarified, according to CORPIQ

Hans Brouillette, director of public affairs for the Corporation of property owners of Quebec (CORPIQ), denounces this movement of lease assignments with the avowed aim of avoiding rent increases.

It is a form of tenant unionism. […] This movement contributes to the disappearance of rental housing, because owners are taken hostage and are no longer interested in buildings that are controlled by tenants.

A quote from:Hans Brouillette, Director of Public Affairs for the Corporation of Property Owners

This initiative distorts the assignment of the lease, which according to him should be a way for the tenant to free himself from his obligations towards his landlord during the lease without suffering financial damage.

A representative of CORPIQ poses in front of a logo of the association and looks at the objective.

Hans Brouillette, Director of Public Affairs for the Corporation of Property Owners

Photo: Radio-Canada / Fannie Bussières McNicoll

“Forcing a lease assignment” against the owner’s will is “unacceptable”, he adds. It is only natural, in his opinion, that landlords want to avoid lease assignments in order to be able to increase their rents “at market price” while the prices of real estate, labor and landlords. materials increase.

Hans Brouillette believes that the assignment of a lease should be prohibited when the owner agrees without penalty to terminate a lease before it expires. The right must be clarified. There will certainly be a battle in court one day or another on this and CORPIQ will be part of it., he assures.