New legislation to help tenants facing domestic violence, health issues or military transfer

19 April 2011

Sharon Blady, MLA for Kirkfield Park, introduced a bill in the legislature today that would allow tenants to end their rental agreements before they expire if they face domestic violence or health issues or are transferred or deployed in military service.

Persons who are no longer able to access their rental unit because of deteriorating health would be eligible for early release from their rental agreements. "I became aware of the need for such a provision when an acquaintance became too frail to climb the stairs in her walk-up apartment," said Blady. "Had this legislation been in place at the time, she would have been able to move to an apartment with an elevator months sooner."

The current Residential Tenancies Act already permits early termination of rental agreements when a tenant is no longer able to live independently or is admitted to a personal care home. Harry Paine of the Manitoba Society of Seniors believes this proposed legislation addresses a growing problem, as the proportion of older adults continues to increase. "More and more people will be finding it near impossible to get in and out of their living quarters," Paine said.

Victims of domestic violence or stalking would also be released from their leases if they believe their safety or the safety of their children is at risk if they were to continue to live in the house or apartment they are renting.

"This legislation would remove a considerable financial obstacle to the victim’s leaving a situation which is unlivable," said Barbara Judt, executive director of the Osborne House women’s shelter. "This is real progress. The more options we can provide for people with violence in their lives, the further ahead we will be in reducing violence."

"Women shouldn’t be forced to remain in unsafe situations or face financial hardship because of an outstanding lease," said Kim Storeshaw, director of domestic violence services at A Woman’s Place. "Manitoba is once again on the forefront of providing innovative solutions to address the realities of domestic violence."

Canadian Forces and Reserve personnel who are posted to another location would also be able to terminate their rental agreements before they expire. "While such people are reimbursed eventually by the Forces, this provides them with financial relief much sooner," said Blady. "Surely in view of the sacrifices they make for us all, we owe them this good turn."

In all cases, landlords would be entitled to one-month’s notice or notice of whatever the length of the rent-payment period is.

The legislation was drafted in consultation with representatives from military, women’s groups and advocated for the disabled, as well as landlords.