June 16, 2016

The Québec Ombudsman makes recommendations aimed at fostering respect of the rights of tenants in private seniors’ residences

Québec City, June 16, 2016 – In a special report released today, the Québec Ombudsman shed light on the difficulties tenants in private seniors’ residences experience in having their rights upheld when they have to face off against the owner in court. The report, entitled Private seniors’ residences: more than just rental businesses, contains seven recommendations aimed at giving these seniors a fair chance to defend their rights.

As Ombudsperson Raymonde Saint-Germain sees it, "at a time when the proportion of elderly is on the rise in Québec and there are more and more private seniors’ residences, it’s imperative that the tenants, whose average age is 82, be able to speak up for their rights without fear."

Tenants with different needs

Under the Act respecting health services and social services, seniors’ residences must offer at least two of the following services other than lodging: meals, personal assistance, domestic help, security, recreation or nursing care. The tenants in such residences depend on the owner for services that must afford them well-being and safety.

The health and social services complaints procedure provides that tenants who are dissatisfied with services can file a complaint with the Service Quality and Complaints Commissioner and then with the Québec Ombudsman as the second level of redress. However, the legal framework for rental in seniors’ residences is the same as for any other kind of housing rental. In disputes about the lease or other particulars, the residents must contact the Régie du logement, an administrative tribunal.

But because the tenants depend on the landlord for the daily care they cannot do without, these seniors are often afraid to take legal action against the person or company. While many seniors can stand up for themselves, others have a very hard time doing this due to health problems, isolation or lack of support. 

Apart from these findings, the Québec Ombudsman brought up other difficulties that seniors’ residence tenants face:

  • Trouble obtaining a copy of the building rules that establish the main parameters for the living conditions at the residence;
  • Scarcity of information in layperson’s language concerning signing, modification or resiliation of a lease or recourse with the Régie du logement;
  • Lack of guidance and support in the event of disputes;
  • The fact that the scope of Régie du logement decisions is limited to the parties who submitted an application for a legal matter concerning clauses contrary to public policy;
  • Indexation of the cost of services ill-adjusted for private seniors’ residences.

The Québec Ombudsman’s recommendations

In response to these findings, the Québec Ombudsman has made recommendations to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Land Occupancy, entrusted with managing the Régie du logement, and the Secrétariat aux aînés. In particular, it recommended:

  • Producing and distributing a comprehensive guide for seniors’ residence tenants and owners explaining their respective rights and obligations regarding signing, modification or resiliation of a lease or recourse in the event of disputes. 
  • Amending the Regulation respecting the conditions for obtaining a certificate of compliance and the operating standards for a private seniors' residence to oblige the owners of these residences to distribute copies of the building rules in effect and to make sure they are readily available at all times
  • Tasking community organizations such as complaint assistance and support centres to assist and guide tenants who ask for help in initiating or exercising recourse for lease-related disputes. 
  • Under certain conditions, broadening the scope of Régie du logement decisions in one tenant’s favour to all other tenants affected by a similar problem. 
  • Analyzing the impact of the rent-setting method on the funding of services offered by these residences and adopting measures to prevent abusive rent hikes.

Report (PDF Summary, 187 KB) : Private seniors’ residences: more than just rental businesses

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Carole-Anne Huot, 418 646-7143/418 925-7994