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Rent hikes as high as 16.6 per cent irk Yellowknifers

Rising rental rates in the new year are raising the ire of some Yellowknifers.
Debra Saftnerand husband Ron Wolowich stand at their residence at 6250 Finalyson North Townhomes, Jan. 6. The couple have been living at the location for six years and worry about continued rent increases with the Northview owners. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Rising rental rates in the new year are raising the ire of some Yellowknifers.

One resident was stunned when on Jan. 4 she received a letter from her landlord, YKD Property Management, informing her that her monthly rent will increase by $300 (16.6 per cent) on April 1.

“We’re (now) paying $1,800 for a three-bedroom unit. But considering the building is old, $300 seems like a lot,” said the woman, who lives with her fiancé and child and is pregnant with a second child.

She asked not to be named.

“(And) $2,100 especially seems like a lot when we don’t have proper working laundry machines and dryers and they’re coin operated,” she added. “It’s shared between all tenants in the building. It’s just terrible. My fiancé said that’s been a problem since he moved in three years ago.”

The letter from YKD, signed by property manager Sasha Stride, asks the tenant to sign the document if they disagree with the rent increase. Signing would also terminate the tenancy and require the occupants to move out by April 1.

The woman explained that the rent hike will put more financial pressure on her family, even as her partner works two full-time jobs.

“I’m quite saddened by the situation, with my family trying to make ends meet. I’m sure other families have it worse. It’s already hard enough to live in Yellowknife with this economy,” she said.

For now, the couple is considering whether to find a solution with the landlord or approach the NWT Rental Office. That office operates under the GNWT’s Department of Justice and is empowered to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.

“We’re thinking about also moving down south to Alberta. But I want to do something about this and I’m hoping other tenants do as well because $300 is pretty drastic,” she said.

An office worker at YKD told Yellowknifer that the owner — the Eggenberger family — didn’t want to comment on the matter.

Another longtime Yellowknife resident, Debra Saftner, is also facing a rental increase from her property owner. On Dec. 31, Northview Apartment REIT sent her a letter addressed to the number of her townhouse that states rent will rise for the unit she shares with her husband, where they pay $2,034.90 per month.

Citing the NWT Residential Tenancies Act, the letter gives three rate increase options effective on April 1: an additional $41 per month for a one-year lease, $81 more per month for a six-month lease and $122 more for a month-to-month lease.

If the form isn’t returned to Northview by March 1, the lease will automatically renew on a month-to-month basis at the new rate.

Saftner, who has lived in the townhouse for six years, is puzzled as to why the rate is rising while amenities in the townhouses aren’t being upgraded.

“I can’t justify the rental increase because we’re not getting anything (more). My neighbour across the way didn’t have a dishwasher for months and months,” she said.

Saftner said she’s more concerned with how Northview is announcing the increase than the higher payment.

“I don’t have an issue paying extra (rent). I have a comfortable, clean home,” she said. “My issue is having to sign a document that my name isn’t on and they’re calling it a lease renewal, and they’re not giving people the option to not sign it. They’ll do the increase on April 1 anyways. Why do they even bother?”

The couple plan to move to Alberta in the spring, Saftner said.

A regional manager with Northview said the company has no comment.

Adelle Guigon, the NWT’s chief rental officer, said it’s not illegal for landlords to increase rents and that tenants “would not have cause to make an application under the Residential Tenancies Act.”

Landlords are also not required to give reasons for the increase.

“There are no rent caps or rent control in the NWT,” Guigon said.

However, the act limits landlords to a single rent increase in a 12-month period and they must give tenants at least three months’ notice in writing.

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, said he supports a cap on rent increases as some hikes, such as 16.6 per cent, would be illegal in some jurisdictions in Canada.

“Rent should increase every year. It’s really when you get into the 10 or 15 per cent increase realm that it’s really egregious,” Johnson said. “I have had constituents come to me with that level of increase and sadly there is no remedy.”

Johnson’s solution on the accommodations issue is to increase the supply.

“We need more and better quality housing stock in Yellowknife and the only way to do that is to create meaningful competition, which we don’t have.”