In the face of aberrant rent increases, Bill 31's attack on lease transfers threatens the fundamental right to housing.

The right to adequate housing, as recognized by the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, remains poorly protected by the courts, despite the adoption in 2019 of the National Housing Strategy Act. It is clear that far too many tenants are still struggling to find housing or pay their rent. The Legault government, much like previous governments, remains passive in the face of the housing crisis and does nothing to protect this right, even threatening it with this new bill, which would allow landlords to refuse lease transfers notices on trivial grounds. At present, lease transfers cannot be refused without serious grounds.

Housing crisis: The Big Picture

Lack of government intervention combined with real estate speculation is creating a catastrophic cocktail for access to housing. A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report published in 2023 reports that the vacancy rate is currently around 1.9% in so-called Canada. It is generally considered that a threshold lower than 3% gives "the advantage [...] to landlords who can raise rents more1 due to the scarcity of housing compared to demand. With regions like the Outaouais even reaching vacancy rates below 1%2it's easy to see how the conjecture between housing shortage and landlord control can create a disastrous climate for anyone looking for affordable housing...

According to market studies, students are right in the landlords' sights. In many cases, what enables tenants to keep their rents affordable is the right to maintain the premises, i.e. long-term rentals where the lease is renewed year after year according to increases in line with the rates set annually by the Rental Administration Tribunal3The student population, on the other hand, moves more frequently and cannot benefit from this way of keeping rent low, hence the importance of lease transfers. This is born out by a report published in 2022 by the Unité de travail pour l'implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), according to which students in so-called Quebec pay on average 2% more rent than non-student households4The same report also points out that, at present, 64% of students spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, creating financial stress that is often detrimental to mental health5It should also be pointed out that, in order to complete their studies, more than half of all students have to leave their family home because it is too far from their educational institution, reaffirming the need to assert housing as an inalienable right.6.

Unfortunately, more affordable student residences are not an option for many, as places are just as scarce in these establishments. As of June 2023, no fewer than 1,500 students were on the waiting list for a place in a residence7In Sherbrooke alone, there will be a shortfall of 569 places for the start of the fall academic year8Although the Plan québécois des infrastructures 2022-2023 has the objective of increasing the number of places in student residences, UTILE deplores the inadequacy of the sums allocated and the inefficiency of the means undertaken by the government to achieve these goals...9.


Bill 31: A False Good Idea

In light of the picture painted above, Bill 31 only aggravates an already alarming situation. In fact, although the bill provides for changes that are somewhat advantageous for tenants, notably with regard to acknowledgements of delivery and compensation for evictions, these changes are no match for the attack on lease transfers that is also included.

In this sense, the project intends to modify the Civil Code in a number of ways. All new rental projects will have to set a maximum rent for their first five years. Eviction notices submitted by landlords will be presumed to be refused unless tenants give notice to the contrary. What's more, if evictions do go ahead, landlords will have to pay compensation of at least three months' rent, or the equivalent of one month's rent for each year of consecutive occupancy, plus moving expenses. In other words, the longer the property has been occupied, the higher the compensation.

At first glance, these measures would appear to benefit tenants. However, although evictions are a real scourge that contribute to precariousness, they are far from being the only obstacle to access to housing. What's more, guaranteed compensation for evictions, while higher than in the past, will hardly ever offset the costs incurred in the long term, with a sharp rise in rent accompanying the signing of a new lease more often than not. For example, in 2022, in the Quebec City region, rents rose by 3.8% for units whose occupants remained the same, compared with 8.2% for units whose tenants changed.10.

In other words, the key factor in students' access to affordable housing lies less in their ability to protect themselves against unfair eviction than in keeping rents low near campuses and in urban centers, which is made possible by lease transfers. Giving landlords the right to refuse them for any reason is almost tantamount to banning this practice, on which many people's access to housing depends. Let's not forget that, even without this bill, the current requirement for a serious reason to refuse an assignment was already a very meagre protection; landlords frequently take advantage of their position of authority and some tenants' ignorance of their rights to impose their will. What's more, such a barrier to lease assignments could facilitate discrimination against marginalized groups, whose search for housing can already be difficult through traditional channels. Transfering a lease is a gesture of solidarity that is widely used to alleviate the effects of the housing crisis. Faced with the need to leave their homes, 20% of tenants would prefer to opt for lease transfers, even when their landlord offers to terminate the lease.11.


Let’s get mobilized !

Between the statistical data on housing and the CAQ's out-of-touch attitude, one thing seems certain: we can't count on the goodwill of landlords, real estate companies or the government to keep rents affordable. It's up to us to organize against this bill and continue to assert our right to housing in every possible way. Whether it's by registering your rent with the Rent Registry or by taking part in the mobilizations planned against PL-31, all means are good to make our indignation known!


Next demonstration(s) :

Manifestion du FLIP le 25 août prochain à 17h au métro Papineau
Manifestation de le RCLALQ le 16 septembre prochain à 13h au métro Préfontaine

Written by Ariane Beaudin, Laure Dumoutier and Camille Parent-Montpetit
Illustrated by Rémi Grenier

  1. André Dubuc, « La crise du logement existe bel et bien », La Presse, 27 janvier 2023,
  2. Dans le cas de l’Outaouais, le taux d’inoccupation était de 0,8 % en 2022. (Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant, Le logement étudiant en Outaouais – Rapport de recherche de l’ÉCLAIR Outaouais 2022, 25 mai 2023, p. 2,
  3. Cependant, ce taux directif n’est pas systématiquement respecté par les propriétaires et seule une partie des locataires connaissent leur droit de refuser ces augmentations abusives. Pour plus d’informations à ce propos :
  4. Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant, Le logement étudiant au Québec. Rapport de recherche, Enquête PHARE 2021, Janvier 2022, p. 27,
  5. Plus de la moitié de la population étudiante évalue son état de santé psychologique entre « très fragile » et « moyen ». (Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant, Le logement étudiant au Québec. Rapport de recherche, Enquête PHARE 2021, 2022, p. 45,
  6. Sophie Williamson, « 60% des étudiants locataires sont en situation de précarité financière à Québec », Le Carrefour de Québec, 11 février 2022, 
  7. Isabelle Porter et Anne-Marie Provost, « Cégépiens incapables de se loger en région », Le Devoir, 14 juin 2023, 
  8. Ibid.
  9. Anne-Marie Provost, « Manque de logements étudiants: “on est là-dessus”, dit la ministre Déry », Le Devoir, 14 juin 2023, 
  10. Société canadienne d’hypothèques et de logements, Rapport sur le marché locatif, 2023, p. 139,
  11.  Anne-Sophie Roy, « “Du jamais-vu” : Un propriétaire sur quatre aurait affaire à une cession de bail, une situation “très grave” selon la CORPIQ », Le 24 heures, 22 mai 2022,–un-proprietaire-sur-quatre-aurait-affaire-a-une-cession-de-bail-une-situation-tres-grave-selon-la-corpiq