Legislation could help mobile home tenants resolve landlord disputes

Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish speaks about amendments to the Real Estate Act introduced in the Alberta legislature on Oct. 9, 2019. Ian Kucerak / Postmedia, file

A bill that could make dispute resolution services easier for people who live in mobile homes was introduced by the provincial government Wednesday.

If passed, Bill 3, the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Amendment Act, would give tenants and landlords access to the government’s Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service that already helps resolve disputes between Albertans renting apartments or houses, and their landlords.

Brenda Neville, a resident of Parkland Village in Spruce Grove for 20 years, said she and other residents have been lobbying to be heard for years.

“Many people who live within these mobile-home communities are on a fixed income and cannot take their grievances to court,” she said at a news conference Wednesday.

“It will be tremendous for both sides.”

The service is a faster, less formal and less expensive alternative to the court system and can help resolve disputes over security deposits or rent deductions for doing repairs, said Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish.

“I’m excited that our government is taking action on this in our first year.”

The service allows landlords and residents to file applications for remedies of up to $50,000. Once an application is filed and a hearing is scheduled, a tenancy dispute officer will conduct the hearing, make a decision, and issue a binding order that is enforceable by the courts.

“This is just about equality … and being fair,” said Edmonton Coun. Mike Nickel, who thanked the minister for taking quick action on the file.

The Opposition NDP supported the move after having campaigned on the issue.

“We are happy that the UCP government is taking our lead,”  said the Opposition NDP critic for Service Alberta Jon Carson in an interview.

But Carson said it was frustrating that the changes won’t be implemented immediately and that major infrastructure issues would be excluded from the service.

The proposed timeline is a necessity, since the department needs to update forms and web content, and staff at the service need to be specially trained and educated, said Service Alberta press secretary Tricia Velthuizen.

And, capping the amount at $50,000 — which would exclude most infrastructure issues — is consistent with rules for those who live in apartments and condos, said Velthuizen.

The service was launched in 2006 and now receives more than 10,000 applications annually.

It charges an application fee of $75, while court fees can range from $100 to $200 — although that fee can be waived if it would cause financial hardship to the applicant.

lijohnson@postmedia.com