To Windsor City Council,

Recently I spoke with Mike Kakuk & Kathie McMann on AM800 about the major rent increases plaguing businesses in cities across Canada, including Windsor.

I shared stories of businesses facing closures & employee layoffs due to rent increases or landlord disputes, and we discussed the lack of protections for commercial tenants. This is why our team at the Better Way Alliance, a group of Canadian employers, launched the Commercial Renter Bill of Rights.

As business owners, we are tired of seeing our neighbors close because of unscrupulous landlords and lack of protections. Unlike residential renters, businesses are facing:

Unjustifiable Rent Increases: Landlords can raise the rent by any amount without a reason. We often hear of 50 to 100% increases, or even higher.
Complex Lease Agreements: There are no standard leases; documents can be 75 pages long, full of complex legalese, and often include harmful clauses. Or zero pages on a month-to-month basis and 100% uncertainty.
No Dispute Resolution: There is no dispute resolution process. If a tenant is owed a contractually obligated repair by an uncooperative landlord, the renter’s only option is to sue to have a leaky roof fixed.
Eviction Risks: If a commercial tenant stops paying rent when a landlord owes them money, which happens often, that tenant can still be evicted.

When rent increases by 30%, or a business has to spend $6,000 on a lawyer to review a 70-page lease document, that’s a staff raise that gets put on hold, or a more efficient CNC machine purchase postponed. When rent goes up 300%, that business moves or shuts down.

Gigantic rent increases are productivity and local business killers. We must do better for our brick and mortar business owners.

To encourage greater productivity, good local jobs, and brick & mortar business success, we are asking for your support for a Commercial Renter Bill of Rights, including:

Standard Lease Agreements
Simplify complex legal language to ensure transparency and accessibility in landlord-tenant agreements.

Affordable Dispute Resolution
Access to out-of-court resolution reduces legal costs and resolves conflicts swiftly, keeping businesses focused on growth.

Predictable Rent Increases
Cap rent increases to prevent unexpected costs and ensure business stability and continuity.

Right to Withhold Rent
Allow rent withholding, without eviction, as an offset when the landlord owes money – protecting tenants from unfair financial pressures.

In May, Toronto City Council voted 21-1 to request the province address commercial rent reforms detailed in our bill of rights. Now, we urge you to consider a motion at Windsor City Council requesting the same of Ontario.

Earlier this year, you rightly voted unanimously to support Windsor’s “Strengthen the Core” plan. This plan aims to revitalize downtown Windsor by enhancing public spaces, supporting local businesses, and improving overall community vibrancy. These initiatives are important, and if you want to fully unlock the economic productivity of Windsor, they must be complemented by systemic changes to the commercial rental market.

In the highest commercial vacancy city in Canada, Craft Heads’ landlord shouldn’t be raising the rent by 300%. Such drastic increases hinder fair competition and sustainable business growth. Effective regulation can help correct these imbalances.

France provides a compelling example. By capping rent increases at 10%, France has created an environment where businesses can plan for the future, invest in growth, and ultimately, contribute more robustly to the economy. These businesses enjoy higher productivity, longer lifespans, and better exit opportunities for retiring owners.

Windsor’s brick-and-mortar businesses deserve the support of their elected officials. By advocating for fair commercial rent regulations, you can help create a balanced market that supports both landlords and tenants, ensuring the vitality of the local business community.

Windsor City Council passing a motion in support of the Commercial Renter Bill of Rights will help show the urgency needed in addressing the commercial rent crisis facing businesses. We need action to stop other businesses in the city from closing or moving because of an unfair marketplace.

Aaron Binder
Better Way Alliance