Instead of waiting for the government, a nonprofit has created its own citizen rent registry.
If you've looked for an apartment in Montreal recently, you're probably all-too-familiar with rising rents, line-ups for apartment visits and the general feeling of helplessness that comes with living through a housing crisis.
But a Quebec nonprofit is trying to put the agency back into the hands of local renters. La Base, an organization that works to create, operate and support open data projects, has built a citizens' rent registry, providing the public with a place to review rent prices online before committing to a lease.
Tenants who are already locked into a lease can log their own rent on an interactive map in order to inform potential future tenants in the same unit, building or neighbourhood. You'll also find tenant rights Q&As built into the site.
How do I use the registry?
Anyone can go to the Registre Des Loyers website and anonymously add their lease information to the registry. This means your rent will become publicly available data that the public can see as they explore the interactive map.
Quebec law does not place a cap on how much landlords can increase rent between leases. However, the landlord is obligated to show tenants the lowest rent paid in the last 12 months before they sign the rental agreement.
If you don't agree with the price, you can bring your case to the Tribunal administratif du logement (TAL) to fix the rent guided by a calculation based on previous rent prices. But, as the TAL explains on its calculation form, "the amounts provided by the landlord have not been verified by the Housing Authority and are the sole responsibility of the landlord."
"In Quebec, the lowest price paid for a unit is what legal increases [are based on], but the party that provides this information is also the party that would benefit from lying about this information," said Adam Mongrain, director of La Base.
"Someone knows exactly how to price it to get the maximum amount of money, and the other person does not have all the information to negotiate properly [...] So having this information in Quebec is especially useful."
The registry creates "transparency," Mongrain said.
Where did the idea for the registry come from?
Mongrain said the registry is not a new idea.
In June 2020, Québec solidaire MNA Andrés Fontecilla introduced a private member's bill asking the government to create a "Rent Register, which allows a lessee to know the rent paid in the last five years for a dwelling."
Just last month, the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec called on the TAL to create a public rent registry amid "skyrocketing rents."
"Tenant advocacy groups have been making the case for a rental registry for a very long time now," Mongrain said.
"What we decided to do with the Registre Des Loyers is just not wait for the government and do it ourselves."
What is the ultimate goal of the registry?
Since launching in June, Mongrain said the registry has gotten upwards of 5,000 new lease submissions. Combined with the 6,000 leases already added during the testing phase, that makes for 11,000 publicly accessible rent prices or data points on the map.
"It means that people see the value and want to do something about the housing crisis," Mongrain said.
With more participation in the registry comes more comments in the comments field.
Mongrain gave the example of a Montrealer who wrote that they'd gone to court twice to keep their landlord from raising the rent from $1,500 a month to $3,000 — a 100% increase.
"We are hoping to influence consumer behaviours to incentivize good acting by actors in the market," Mongrain said.
"As people provide more and more information, and as more and more people sign up for the rental registry, it becomes something to keep in mind if you are someone who rents out units because there's a fair chance that the people we are renting out to know their rights and have access to or will access the rental registry."