Edmonton business owner calls for more commercial tenant protections

An Edmonton business owner says stronger protections and clearer rules are needed for small businesses in commercial lease agreements.

Nylla Moroziuk said she got notice this summer that she’d have to move her store, Rain Clothing and Fashion Accessories, from its current spot in Phase 1 of West Edmonton Mall.

She knew it was a possibility — a relocation clause is part of her lease, letting the mall give her 60 days’ notice to move to another spot. She said she was told that a larger retailer would be taking her space, plus some neighbouring stores.

But Moroziuk said she’s just one year into her five-year lease agreement, and she’s frustrated that she doesn’t see a way to guarantee more stability for her location. Shops are often subject to 30-day relocation clauses, and she said that uncertainty can put independent business owners at a landlord’s mercy.

“When you’re looking at a small business … that 30 days could completely change somebody’s life,” she said.

West Edmonton Mall didn’t respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

Moroziuk said the issue isn’t her current landlord, but the broader leasing system. She started a petition this month to call for the Alberta government to create a commercial leasing act, with guidelines and standards for lease agreements.

Nylla Moroziuk has run Rain Clothing and Fashion Accessories for a decade, first in Bonnie Doon Mall, and now in West Edmonton Mall. (Submitted by Nylla Moroziuk)

Moroziuk argues it could help correct what she says is a power imbalance between commercial landlords and small businesses.

“I don’t think a lot of Albertans understand what small business owners have to go through to be able to lease in our shopping centres, or lease at all,” she said.

“With rising prices and job instability, small retailers are already facing so many struggles that this has just definitely come to the forefront.”

Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act sets the framework for the residential landlord-tenant relationship, but there isn’t equivalent legislation for businesses renting space for a brick-and-mortar shop.

Alberta isn’t the only province where this is the case, but in Ontario and B.C., there are laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies, outlining some of the rights and obligations on both sides.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction said the provincial government isn’t looking to follow suit.

Read more