Renters Have Rights To A Voice Too!
Feb 23, 2023
What a storm we had last night and I feel very lucky that it wasn’t worse here in Etobicoke. I have seen pictures of ice and roads in other areas of Southern Ontario and it could have been so much worse! One thing I don’t have to worry about is shoveling which on days like this makes renting an apartment a great benefit, as someone who gets asthma attacks from just walking outside in the cold air that is a task that would cause me a great deal of difficulty.
And yes … that is my great attempt at a lead in to this issues topic… renting and the need for strong Tenant/Resident Associations! This is going to be an ongoing series and today part one talks about what a Tenant association can do and how to start one.
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What exactly is a Tenant or Resident Association?
Simply put it is a group of people who live in the same building, complex, or community and come together to address common issues related to their tenancy. The main purpose of a tenants association is to advocate for the rights and interests of those tenants, for example to improve living conditions and/or promote a sense of community among those who live there.
These associations may be formed for various reasons, such as to address specific issues related to maintenance and repairs, safety and security, rent increases, eviction threats, discrimination, or other issues that affect the quality of life of tenants. Members typically meet regularly to discuss these issues, share information, and plan collective actions.
The activities of a tenants association may include organizing meetings with landlords, local politicians, and other relevant stakeholders to voice concerns and seek solutions. They may also engage in advocacy and lobbying efforts to change laws and policies that affect tenants' rights and welfare.
Overall, tenants associations serve as a powerful tool for tenants to collectively address their concerns and protect their interests in the rental housing market, just like the homeowners associations that spring up in many single-family home neighbourhoods throughout the city.
The benefit of working together is that a group has more clout with the landlords, local politicians, and other stakeholders when issues arise but many tenants have no idea that this type of group is even a possibility.
Remember its not easy to do start a new association but in an age where tenants are not being given the respect of homeowners, we need to stick together. If the budget debate last week in Toronto City Council proved; many will fight against a small property tax increase but very few will fight for unfair rental increases. A rental increase affects families on a monthly basis and property tax bill comes once a year!
So how do you set up a Tenant Association?
Here is a helpful rough plan to get you started and thinking about the steps involved and if you need more help you can reach out to me at TheEtobicokeVoice@gmail.com
If I cannot help I will try to connect you with a local organization who might be able to assist!
Identify potential members: Reach out to your fellow tenants and gauge their interest in forming a tenant association. You will need a minimum number of interested tenants to form the group.
Determine the purpose and goals of the association: Establish the reasons why you want to form a tenant association, such as addressing issues with the landlord, advocating for tenants' rights, or improving living conditions.
Draft a constitution: A constitution outlines the rules and procedures of the association, such as the election of officers, voting procedures, and meeting schedules.
Register the association: Registering the association provides legal recognition and benefits, such as the ability to open a bank account, apply for grants, and negotiate with landlords.
Hold an inaugural meeting: At this meeting, adopt the constitution, elect officers, and discuss the goals of the association.
Plan and execute activities: As a tenant association, plan and execute activities that align with the goals of the association. This may include organizing meetings with the landlord or property management, advocating for tenants' rights, and promoting community-building initiatives.
Stay informed and updated: Stay informed about tenant rights and relevant legislation, such as the Residential Tenancies Act, and ensure that the association's activities are in compliance with the law.
It may be helpful to seek guidance from community organizations, such as legal clinics or tenant advocacy groups, to help you through the process of setting up a tenant association.
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND my post today is is based on my general knowledge and understanding of the process of forming organizations and associations. Depending on specific circumstances and legal requirements things can change and so it's always advisable to consult with legal experts or community organizations for specific advice and guidance on setting up a tenant association.
I am sure you now are seeing a need and are perhaps thinking if you are up for the job of bringing this idea to you neighbours. Maybe you just need a simple way to bring this idea forward and so I have created a simple but clear case study you can share.
The Benefits of a Tenant Association in Etobicoke: A Case Study
Meet Lisa. Lisa lives in a small apartment building in Etobicoke near Kipling Station. For months, she has been struggling with issues in her apartment, including a broken stove and a leaky faucet. She has tried speaking to the landlord, but the repairs never seem to get done.
One day, Lisa hears about a tenant association that was formed in a neighboring building. Intrigued, she decides to attend their next meeting. At the meeting, she meets other tenants who are also struggling with similar issues, such as repairs, rent increases, and safety concerns.
Together, the tenants decide to form a tenant association for their building. They elect officers and begin to work on creating a constitution that outlines their goals and procedures. They also create a plan for how they will communicate with the landlord and address their concerns.
After several meetings, the tenant association is up and running. Lisa and the other tenants feel empowered and supported. They now have a collective voice to address their concerns with the landlord.
The benefits of the tenant association quickly become apparent. The landlord is now more responsive to their requests for repairs, and the building's overall maintenance has improved. The tenants are also able to negotiate with the landlord for a fair rent increase, and they feel safer knowing that their concerns about security are being heard.
In addition to addressing specific issues, the tenant association has created a sense of community among the tenants. They now know each other better and have developed a network of support. They also have a stronger understanding of their rights as tenants and are better equipped to navigate the rental market.
In the end, Lisa and the other tenants are glad they formed a tenant association. They feel more empowered and supported, and their quality of life has improved. They know that they can rely on each other and their association to address any future concerns that may arise.
In Part 2, I will be looking at a real and very active Etobicoke association and will point out what they are up against and what they are doing to help residents in their neighbourhood.
Then in Part 3, I will show you more about what is going on at City Hall in regards to the RentSafeTO program and other programs in place to help protect renters in this city! The questions that will be addressed are is it enough and what else could be done!
Then in Part 4, we will discuss the benefits of a larger Ward Tenant Association Pilot Project I have had on my mind for a while. What if multiple groups feed into one main community group? Would it be helpful in areas of the city where renters feel ignored by their local council office?
All this and more is coming over the next few weeks so make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an issue!
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Until next time stay safe and warm!