In 1978, housing committees decided to form a province-wide organization to build a better balance of power with the Quebec government on the housing issue. The Coalition's very first campaign called for a freeze on rents in a context where increases averaged nearly 10% per year. Since then, the Coalition of Housing Committees and Tenants Associations of Quebec (RCLALQ) has made the collective defense of tenants' rights its priority in the struggle, in a society where access and conditions for housing are too often subject to the whims of the rental market.
We invite you to consult our book 40 ans de luttes du RCLALQ pour le droit au logement (in French only) to find out more about our history. You can also consult below the RCLALQ’s highlights since its creation in 1978.
In January 1978, 7 housing committees came together to create the Coalition for Rent Freezes (RGL). Press conferences, actions, and demonstrations in front of the Régie du Logement wereorganized. n May of the same year, a petition on behalf of 5,000 tenants demanding a freeze on rents was submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Guy Tardif. In October 1980, the RGL became the Coalition of Housing Committees and Tenants Associations of Quebec (RCLALQ).
In 1980, the RCLALQ began to broaden its demands. There is a glaring shortage of affordable housing, especially in Montreal. The market is dominated by rental agencies which set up blacklists of tenants based on credit checks and decisions by the Régie du logement. These blacklists are an additional element of discrimination in the search for housing, particularly for more vulnerable tenants already experiencing difficulties. Since 1980 the RCLALQ has therefore produced popular education tools in order to inform tenants of their rights, but also to conduct political campaigns against discrimination in housing.
Following the creation of the Coalition for Rent Freezes in 1978 and the establishment of the Régie du logement in 1980, RCLALQ’s demands for the rent freeze gradually evolved into that of rent control. Pending the creation of mandatory and universal rent controls, the first step in limiting rent increases is to refuse abusive rent increases by landlords. At this time, it is common for increases of more than 10% to be requested each year. Consequently, the RCLALQ invites tenants to collectively refuse rent increases, a gesture that is as much political as it is individually necessary to resist the depletion of the affordable housing market.
Poster by Bernard Vallée. Many RCLALQ members are partial to this beautiful poster. In fact it was used once more for an action on rent control in winter 2017.
It is especially difficult to counter abusive rent increases when tenants leave at the end of their lease and make way for new tenants. In fact, landlords often take the opportunity to disproportionately increase the price of rent, and do not disclose the rent paid by previous tenants on the lease. To counter this phenomenon and foster solidarity
between tenants, the “Pass me your lease!” campaign was created to encourage tenants who leave their dwelling to give a copy of their lease to the new arrivals. With this information in hand, tenants can more easily contest an unlawful increase with the Régie du Logement.
Throughout its history, the RCLALQ has produced several posters and leaflets for the “Pass Me Your Lease!” campaign.
Beginning in 1984, the RCLALQ published a housing themed newsletter. Initially a publication of the Saint-Louis Housing Committee (the ancestor of the Plateau Mont-Royal Housing Committee), this newsletter evolved into a journal This journal, called L’Artère, was published approximately four times a year from 1984 to 2002 and distributed throughout Quebec. Special issues of L’Artère have also been produced, including studies on the Régie du logement, on the protection of personal information when looking for housing, and on the impoverishment of tenant households.
In 1986, the Minister responsible for Housing, André Bourbeau, announced the lifting of the moratorium on conversions from housing to condos, which had protected the rental market for more than 10 years. As a result, the “Save Our Homes” Coalition was created in partnership with the Front populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU). “My home is not for sale” signswere distributed and a petition collected more than 10,000 signatures. Unfortunately, this was not enough to prevent the lifting of the moratorium.
Unfortunately, this campaign remains as relevant as ever. In the central areas of large cities, a lot of rental housing is in danger. In search of greater profits, landlords transform homes into condos, renovate them to rent them at a higher price or, increasingly, rent them on Airbnb. As a means to an end, tenants are evicted from their dwellings. The social consequences of these evictions are major, but the political authorities prefer to look the other way …
On May 31, 1987, the RCLALQ organized a large demonstration in Montreal to denounce the withdrawal of low-income populations from lower-income neighborhoods against their will. Abusive rent increases after major renovations, condo conversions, and real estate speculation are some of the driving factors pushing low-income tenants out of their neighborhoods … a phenomenon that is still very present today in several regions of Quebec.
Here is the poster inviting tenants to join the protest.
The campaign “Control Rent Increases” was launched in 1990. It demands universal and mandatory rent control and the compulsory filing of leases with the Régie du logement. In addition, the maximum rate of rent increase would be limited to 2% per year. The Coalition therefore adopted the iconic image of the cartonof 2% milk for its campaign. A petition of 15,000 names bringing together the campaign’s demands was filed with the National Assembly on May 22, 1991.
In 1991 the RCLALQ published “For a Policy on Housing in Quebec”. This document summarizes the Coalition’s point of view on the housing issue as a whole, takes stock of the situation, and proposes a series of measures to improve the situation of tenants in Quebec. The RCLALQ went on to publish a second version of this policy in 2005.
Twelve years after the creation of the Régie du logement, the RCLALQ takes stock of the Housing Tribunal. By analyzing the current situation in relation to the organization’s original mandate, a grim picture emerges. Des fermetures de bureaux en région, Office closures in the regions, increased legal fees, call lines always busy … social fraud is clearly pictured and we denounce it!
In 1992, the RCLALQ created a new mobilization tool aimed directly at tenants: “You Have the Right to Refuse a Rent Increase!” This tool is still widely distributed today, especially early in the year during the lease renewal notice period, particularly since very few landlords still don’t use the typical rent increase notice.still don’t use the typical rent increase notice. They prefer to use their own form which does not indicate the option to decline the rent increase while renewing the lease. Tenants are therefore misled and think they are forced to either accept the rent increase or leave their home at the end of the lease.
On January 1, 1994, the new Civil Code and The Law on the Protection of Personal Information in the Private Sector came into effect. These are two important victories for the RCLALQ. For one, the new Civil Code of Quebec replaces the Civil Code of Lower Canada. This new versionof the Civil Code more severely sanctions owners who harass their tenants. Secondly, the Privacy Act allows tenants to report landlords who improperly request personal information, an important provision in the fight against tenant blacklists.
The RCLALQ intensified the pressure in the mid-1990s for the imposition of a single, mandatory lease. After a petition, appeals to ministers and the filing of a brief on the subject, it was finally enacted on September 1, 1996 with the adoption of Bill 120. The members of the RCLALQ celebrated the victory after 4 years of struggles with wine renamed for the occasion “New lease 1996” and by burning old leases which are no longer valid.
In March 1997, the RCLALQ submitted its report “Guilty of Being Poor in a Rich Society”, in which it denounced the rampant smear campaign against low income households. Indeed, no study proves that social assistance recipients are predisposed to not pay their rent on time. Inabilityto pay rent is largely due to the impoverishment of the population and the uncontrolled rise in rents. To mark the event, four RCLALQ representatives dressed in prison outfits when submitting the report to the National Assembly.
A very important struggle took place at the end of the 1990s for people on Welfare. Minister Louise Harel’s Bill 186 reforming social assistance initially contained a provision allowing for part of Welfare cheques to be seized in the event of non-payment of rent (article 31). In response topressure from groups defending tenants’ rights, as well as Welfare rights groups, the new Minister of Social Solidarity André Boisclair finally decided not to give in to the demands of homeowners’ associations, and omitted this provision in the law.
During its campaign “For the Right to Housing”, the RCLALQ tackles the various discriminatory practices introduced by homeowners associations when looking for housing and urges the Quebec government to fill the related legal void. The search for housing is a real obstacle course ! At the end of the campaign, the RCLALQ submitted to the National Assembly a petition with 11,000 signatures and 272 letters of support from organizations. Bill 26 was then tabled by Minister Louise Harel, but unfortunately never passed.
On June 19, 2002, the RCLALQ and the Plateau Mont-Royal Housing Committee organized a protest to stop the demolition of a block of 16 housing units. This demolition, which put 8 tenants on the street in the midst of a housing crisis, is a glaring example of the lack of regulation which would protect the rental market.
It comes as no surprise that these kinds of eviction tactics are still commonly used to get rid of tenants and thus increase profits. Without the intervention of tenant rights, landlords do as they please.
A milestone in the history of RCLALQ! In March 2004, the RCLALQ and 400 activists delivered a freezer filled with notices of rent increases and leases to the president of the Régie du logement at the head office of the court in Montreal to demand a freeze on rents. Just before the delivery, to warm up, housing activistsskated in a neighborhood arena and parodied a pre-game hockey ceremony. The following year, in November, the activists repeated the experience, this time delivering a cooler full of rent increase notices to the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister responsible for Housing, Nathalie Normandeau.
In 2004, the RCLALQ organized with the FRAPRU the Encampment for Tenants Living in Precarious Conditions, where a hundred people camped for two days in Quebec City to demand rent control and more social housing. Around 1,000 people participated in the protest at the closing of the encampment.
In the mid-2000s, in the midst of the housing crisis, the RCLALQ traveled through the major cities of Quebec to denounce discrimination in housing. The caravan of April 6, 2005, “A Roof is a Right!”, was particularly successful with more than 200 people participating. Nevertheless, the silence of the government forced theRCLALQ to change its strategy, opting for specific actions within national coalitions against discrimination.
From 2008 onwards, the national campaign for a rent registry mobilized all the efforts of the members of the RCLALQ. During the demonstration on November 18 in Quebec City, a huge banner was unfurled in front of the Saint-Jean doors. 2 years later, the petition filed demanding a registry is among the largest in the historyof RCLALQ: more than 12,000 names appear on it and 31 Members of the National Assembly support it. However, in 2012, the government announced its intention to end any possibility of implementing a rent registry.
On April 8, 2009, more than 100 people gathered in front of Minister Nathalie Normandeau’s offices and awarded her the “Golden Cockroach” prize for her inaction in matters of sanitary housing. More than 300 letters of support for a code applicable to all municipalities in Quebec were given to her that day.
At the beginning of 2010, the RCLALQ renamed the Régie du logement “Régie du lentement”. It denounces the interminable wait times and calls for a tribunal that is accessible to all. Cases where the condition of the housing threatens health and safety must be prioritized and addressed within 72 hours. Other cases should be heard on a “first come, first serve” basis, within a maximum of three months.
During the regional actions of November 28, 2012, the members of the RCLALQ toured homeowners’ associations, denouncing their over-inflated rent increase forms and their opinions misleading tenants. Disputes between the RCLALQ and homeowners associationsare ongoing. For example, in 1983, the Corporation of Real Estate Owners of Quebec (CORPIQ) went to the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the Régie du logement. In 2005, they also challenged the publication of rent increase indexes by the Régie du logement in the Superior Court of Quebec. Both cases resulted in bitter failures for the CORPIQ.
In 2012, the RCLALQ ended its relay of the Housing Code across Quebec in order to support local initiatives. For two years, Montreal, Laval, Saint-Jérôme, Amqui, Val-Des-Monts, Joliette and Quebec relay a standard code and organize actions to raise public awareness on the issue of unsanitary housing.
Since 2013, the RCLALQ has held a national protest on April 24, the date it has designated as Tenants’ Day. Every year, hundreds of tenants from several regions of Quebec come together to protest for the right to housing. Join us on April 24!