Rent control refers to a set of laws that places limitations on how much a landlord is allowed to charge residents to occupy a property. These laws can cover anything from the timing and amount of rent increases to how frequently they can occur and what is considered grounds for eviction of a tenant.
Why don’t we start with a quick little history lesson? While government involvement in housing prices could be traced all the way back to the days of Julius Caesar, rent control as we know it is a pretty recent concept. Its modern origin is considered to be sometime between the ends of WWI and WWII. Postwar housing shortages have been observed throughout history: the decrease in housing development during wartime coupled with regular population growth, an increase in postwar marriages, and the return of soldiers leads to a a spike in demand in a time of extra low supply. Naturally, this drives landlords to increase prices and creates a need for regulations to protect tenants.
While most countries learned their lesson and were prepared for this to happen after the second World War, the United States was a bit slower to catch up. The first attempts at federal rent control in the US took place in the early 1940s, led by Franklin Roosevelt and expedited by Pearl Harbor. By 1945, the vast majority of US states were under federal rent control, but this didn’t end up lasting past 1947. While a few local governments created some type of rent control laws to come into effect after federal deregulation, the majority of states simply did not. Today, there are only 4 states — plus Washington, D.C. — that have cities with rent control laws:
The situation in Canada is pretty similar to that of the U.S. The majority of the country was rent controlled by 1941, but today, Canada could be said to “have gone as far as any major country in allowing rent increases and decontrolling particular classes of accommodations.” Today, only a few jurisdictions have rent control laws, and have been said to be a bare minimum.
While there isn’t a limit on how much a landlord can increase rent in Alberta, they are limited to one increase per year and must provide three months’ notice when evicting tenants.
Landlords can increase rent one time per year, and only by a certain percentage. In 2016, this figure was 2.9%. Renters must also be given three months notice of an increase.
Similarly, landlords can increase rent once per year, and only by a certain percentage. In 2016, this figure was 2%. Renters must also be given three months notice of an increase.
If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s that control laws are constantly evolving, so make sure to check out the ones specific to your city before moving into a new place. For more information on the history of rent control, check out this report by John W. Willis.