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How do I set up a tenant association?
If you rent an apartment, you can form a tenant association to improve your living conditions. The purpose of this group is to share concerns, resources, and experiences to fight for your collective tenant rights.
Most tenant associations are for apartment buildings. They can also be by region or neighbourhood to educate residents about their tenant rights or to connect with other groups in the community to improve neighbourhood conditions.
Everyone has the legal right to join and form a tenant association in Ontario. The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) states that tenants are free to organize and be part of a tenant association without fear of retaliation from a landlord or threat of eviction.
Setting Up the Tenant Association
There are no legal or financial requirements to set up a tenant association and no limits to how many people can participate. Remember to be inclusive! This group should be open to all interested tenants who wish to join.
Ask yourself if you follow these equity practices:
Diversity - does the group reflect a wide selection of the people you are trying to organize?
Inclusion - does the group welcome different voices and opinions?
Equity - do you represent all groups in the decision-making process?
You’ll want to be transparent when organizing the group. The superintendent or management’s family members living in the building might want to join. Their interests will generally be in supporting the management office. You can’t refuse their participation in the group, so be careful of the “suggestions” they offer.
Follow these steps to get started:
- Talk to other neighbours to generate interest; they might be experiencing similar concerns.
- Set up a small group meeting with those interested in making a change.
- Make a list of some common issues (building heat problems, neglected maintenance and repairs, and illegal evictions). Decide on one problem that affects most tenants. You’ll attract more participants with an issue that’s common to most.
- Distribute a notice under residents’ doors to let them know you’ll be meeting to discuss this particular problem. Include a date, time and meeting place and offer a way for them to contact you.
- Create an email distribution list or a social media group for contact purposes, but consider those tenants who don’t have internet access. Regular in-person meetings are a way to include all interested residents.
You can find more tips on how to speak to your neighbours about forming a group in the “Tenant Organizing: How to Door Knock” video from the Vancouver Tenant’s Association.
- Set a date, time and place where everyone will meet.
- Provide an agenda of the issues and topics to be discussed.
- Make a list of everyone who attended, get their names and apartment numbers, and ask what their preferred contact method is - email or phone. Be cautious to keep that list safe and away from attendees so those connected to the landlord don’t’ get access to it. It’s of no concern to the property manager who attends these meetings.
Tenant associations don’t need to be structured formally. If your meetings run smoothly and you find everyone is working well together, there is no need to designate different leadership roles. You can all share responsibilities and decide on the tasks at each meeting.
Meeting duties can include:
- Frequent meetings to stay in touch with other residents and discuss arising issues.
- Tenant organizing on how to invite more tenants to participate.
- Investigating the landlord's background and obtaining the corporation records to make informed decisions.
- Monitoring problems in the building like maintenance repair issues, reduction in tenant services, illegal rent increases and other activities, or pest problems, which can include residents providing proof or repeat requests made to the landlord, pictures of maintenance requests not fixed in apartments and common building areas, and other forms of proof to support the inaction from the building management.
- Organizing interest groups like “English-as-a-Second Language” classes in the building, pet-sitting services, creating a playroom for children with toy donations, and social activities like parties and summer BBQs.
Tenant associations can empower all tenants to create a safer, well-maintained home and a better sense of community.
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October 19, 2023