Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a rental unit is defined as “any living accommodation” and a residential complex is defined as “a building or part of a building, a related group of buildings [ . . . ]in which one or more rental units are located.”
But there is no mention of university residences in the act.
John Stintzi, a University of Manitoba residence student, felt that students living in residence should be covered under the act.
“We’re sort of tenants, [ . . . ] so it’s logical that [we] should be considered tenants,” he said.
The Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba has launched a campaign protesting the omission.
Alanna Makinson, chairperson for CFS-Manitoba, stated that if students living in residence were covered under the act they “would be afforded the same rights and protections as all other renters in Manitoba.” At the U of M, the Residence Housing Agreement outlines the terms and conditions for living in residence.
“Unfortunately, the internal policy agreements [ . . . ] can be changed arbitrarily at any time,” said Makinson. One issue of not being covered under the act is rent control. Students living in University College, Authur Mauro, and Mary Speechly pay between $4,997 and $8,136 a year, with payments in June, September and January.
Makinson said that if residence students were living under the act then they could pay rent each month instead of paying in advance. “This way, students are not paying for something that they won’t be using,” she said.
Stintzi noted the convenience of residence and said that he was treated fairly, but said, “I could obviously get better use of my money if I lived off campus.”
Makinson continued to explain that without the protection of the act, “rent can be increased to whatever the university wants [ . . . ].” In contrast, under the act, rent can only go up a maximum of three per cent.
She stressed that an important issue of not being protected under the act was the inability of a student to appeal to a neutral party if they have a disagreement with the university.
According to the University Housing Agreement, matters of discipline are brought to the residence life co-ordinator or the director of Housing & Student Life, who have the final say. If residence students were covered under the act, they could appeal to the Residential Tenancies Branch as a neutral party.
The act protects both landlords and tenants, so the university could be protected if residence was included on it as well. Makinson said that the university’s reputation, community and student life can suffer if their students are not protected.
The CFS campaign also argues that university residences can impose restrictive regulations on student life, such as not being allowed guests in their dorm.
Stintzi said that he didn’t think his behaviour had been restricted in “any unreasonable way.”
On the other hand, CFS-Manitoba claims they have heard complaints about unfair fees, unauthorized entry into student’s rooms and unjustified eviction.
A provincial spokesperson said the province takes the concerns of students seriously and the minister of Family Services and Consumer Affairs, Gord Mackintosh, as well as the minister of Advanced Education, Diane McGifford, have met with representatives of the students and the universities.
“We are looking at the issue and looking for ways to resolve these concerns,” said Glen Cassie, communications coordinator for Communications Services Manitoba.