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Rent hike of 150% doesn't break law
Ruling favours landlord in condo dispute


Joel Kom

Saturday, January 19, 2008
 

Marni Armstrong says her landlord used a legal "loophole" to force tenants out and convert the building into condos.

A Calgary tenant whose rent was nearly tripled blasted the Stelmach government for not protecting renters after a provincial investigation found her landlord did not break Alberta rules for condo conversions.

The investigation had been launched after Marni Armstrong suspected her rent hike to $1,500 monthly from $600 a month was to hasten a condo conversion in her Mission building.

CREDIT: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

Marni Armstrong says her landlord used a legal "loophole" to force tenants out and convert the building into condos.


Armstrong received three months' notice for the rent increase, but a condo conversion under Alberta government regulations is supposed to require one year's warning and no rent hikes during that time.

Virtually every tenant who got the increase has left the building while at least one unit has already been sold as a condo, said Armstrong, who is among those who moved.

An application for a condo permit for 10 units was filed with the City of Calgary in September -- almost two months before notice of the rent increase arrived -- and given final approval at the end of November.

A Calgary company was hired by the building's owner to prepare a condo plan and started working on it in June.

Real estate agents have been coming to the building to look at units, Armstrong said.

Still, the province found nothing the landlord did broke Alberta rules.

Eoin Kenny, a spokesman for Service Alberta, said the hike didn't break the rules because the landlord wasn't specifically asking his tenants to leave.

If a tenant then decides to leave, the landlord can do as he pleases with the vacant unit -- including convert it to a condo without having to give one year's notice, Kenny said.

As for whether the landlord was trying to get around the demand for one year's warning, Kenny said it's impossible to know the landlord's motivation.

"I can't look into the landlord's heart and know what his intentions are," he said.

Jason Shire, who works for Armstrong's landlord, Castle Mountain Properties, would only say "the government has ruled."

Shire hung up when asked whether Castle Mountain Properties raised rents to push tenants out for a condo conversion.

Armstrong said there's no question in her mind.

"Fifteen hundred dollars wasn't a rent increase, it was to get rid of us, and the government's saying it's OK to do that," Armstrong said. "It's an economic eviction, but they don't have anything to protect anybody from that."

Liberal MLA and housing critic Dave Taylor criticized the provincial rules as being toothless, saying it was too easy for landlords to skirt them.

"It's hard to break rules that are written in favour of the landlord," he said. "Are we serious about protecting tenants or are we not? I have to conclude the Conservatives are not."

Armstrong is now subletting a two-bedroom Beltline apartment from a friend for $850 a month. She's still upset the province found nothing wrong.

"I don't know if loophole is the best word, but that's what it is," she said.

jkom@theherald.canwest.com


The Calgary Herald 2008


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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.