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MHSTA changes ‘huge step forward’

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

By the fall of 2020, mobile home tenants could have access to dispute services available to any other landlords and tenants within Alberta.

Minister of Service Alberta, Nate Glubish, tabled legislation last week that will grant mobile home tenants and landlords access to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS), something residents have asked for.

“This change to the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act (MHSTA) is a huge step forward for tenants. Any discrepancies with rent or late fees, or charges landlords feel tenants should pay for can be disputed through the RTDRS,” said Sherry Travers, who lives in Hillcrest Mobile Estates in Hinton.

After spending some time in Hinton talking to mobile home community residents in August, Glubish says he’s acting on the concerns he heard.

“When I came through the community and listened to mobile home community residents from Hinton and the surrounding area, what I heard loud and clear is that they wanted access to the same dispute access services that were available to the rest of Albertans,” he said.

If the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 is passed, RTDRS will help resolve landlord/tenant disputes for Albertans in mobile homes, similar to those in apartments or houses.

Glubish stated that the RTDRS is a cheaper, faster, more efficient, and more effective means to have their disputes heard and to ensure the rules are enforced.

Currently, the only recourse for dispute resolution between a landlord and resident of a mobile home site is through the courts.

“It’s costly, time-consuming, and difficult to go through the courts for every issue and many Albertans can’t afford the cost or the time to go through that process, so they are left to fend for themselves and issues often get worse,” said West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long.

Long added that the whole point of the RTDRS is to address concerns that exist in tenant and landlord agreements. 

“Access to this service means, I think, that more people will address issues in the agreement and have them resolved. While the RTDRS is not the courts, its decisions are enforceable by the courts,” he added.

For disputes valued over $50,000, a resolution has to be found through the courts as well as any other issues that cannot be resolved through the RTDRS. That dollar value cap of $50,000 was an existing parameter within the RTDRS.

Travers is grateful for the positive changes, but believes the cap will prevent bigger issues from being dealt with.

“How can we dispute the road conditions, the sewer conditions, infrastructure issues? We can’t. Our only option for these larger issues is court,” Travers added. “I can only hope in time, Nathan Glubish will review the entire MHSTA, and include ways to address those concerns as well.”

Besides concerns from mobile home residents regarding accountability, management of infrastructure, and enforcing rules within a mobile home park, residents also asked for a cap on rent.

Glubish stated that this bill is an important step and something that is within his control.

He added that further issues and changes may involve different ministries and levels of government.

Alberta is the only province that doesn’t already offer resolution service to mobile home tenants and landlords.

Work is being done right now to train dispute resolution staff to be prepared to handle the types of cases expected from mobile home communities and understanding the different nuances, stated Glubish.

If this bill passes, Glubish expects to be in a position to hear mobile home cases starting in the fall of 2020.

The service will allow tenants to make applications in order to get their security deposit returned, end a tenancy due to a landlord’s breach of the rental agreement, claim financial damages from a landlord’s breach of the rental agreement, get their rent reduced for loss of benefit of a rental agreement, and receive compensation for performing the landlord’s obligations as outlined in the rental agreement and MHSTA.

Similarly, landlords could apply to resolve unpaid rent or utilities, end the tenancy and take possession of the mobile home site, order a tenant to vacate the mobile home site, claim financial damages from a tenant’s breach of the rental agreement, and receive compensation for losses when a tenant has not vacated the site at the end of a tenancy.

Members of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) passed a resolution in 2019 that pushes for a review of the MHSTA to offer RTDRS, prohibit “economic eviction” of residents by defining such targeted rental increases as an offence, and address the quality of life and safety of mobile home park tenants.

AUMA communications manager, Carla Kerr, stated that passed resolutions remain in effect for three years and they will continue to advocate on this issue through 2022.