With rent predicted to soar due to COVID-19 vacancies, students are worried about paying the price. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Instead of fireworks and champagne on New Year’s Eve, Moncton resident Leigh Johnson entered 2023 with a notice from her landlord that her rent would increase from $800 to $1,125 on April 1. 

While her landlord has since reduced the increase and pushed it to July 1, the initial notice shocked Johnson and her sister, who immediately started looking for another apartment.  

“It wasn’t just the fact that we were getting an increase,” said Johnson. “It was the amount of the increase that was kind of staggering.”

Johnson lives in a one-bedroom unit located above multiple bars in downtown Moncton, which she said is known as “party central.”

“Nobody would want to pay $1,125 while also being sleep-deprived six nights of the week,” she said. “It’s just not practical.”

In November 2022, New Brunswick’s minister responsible for Service New Brunswick, Jill Green, announced the province would not extend the rent cap, which protected tenants from significant rent increases. 

The cap prevented rent hikes greater than 3.8 per cent and it expired on Dec. 31, the same day Johnson received her notice. 

“The feeling is that they were just … waiting for the moment that the rent cap was lifted,” she said. 

Moncton resident Leigh Johnson entered 2023 with a notice that her rent would increase from $800 to $1,125 on April 1. (Submitted: Leigh Johnson)

After doing some research, Johnson slid notes under the doors of her neighbours, explaining landlords are also required to give six months’ notice of a rent increase. She said that another tenant was notified of an increase from $900 to $1,750, a staggering 94 per cent.

“I thought it was bad for me, but I only got a 40 per cent increase — hers was almost doubled,” said Johnson.

Stephen Gallant, real estate investor at Galco Atlantic Investments and Johnson’s landlord, said the reason for the increase was to “catch up” to the market values, but that Galco has backtracked its decision. 

“Having conversations with the tenants, we kind of refunded that situation and reduced the rents significantly and as well as extended the time,” he said. 

Gallant said the increase is also a response to inflation, which reached 6.8 per cent last November, according to Statistics Canada.  

“We’ve seen skyrocketing prices and operational costs,” he said. “So I don’t think landlords have suddenly become greedy or anything like that.”

Johnson’s rent will now go up from $800 to $975 in July, which she said is “a little bit more reasonable.”

“It is still a big hike, but for the market now, I can’t really complain,” she said.

She said she recommends renters know their rights and check what a post-rent cap housing market will look like.

“If you think your rent increase is unfair, definitely ask for revision,” she said. 

With files from Martina Barclay