Brendan Jowett, Staff Housing Lawyer
The Government of Ontario is ramming a bill through the legislature which will fast-track evictions, limit tenant rights at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), allow illegal rent increases, and turn the LTB into a debt dispute agency.
With tens of thousands of renters struggling or unable to pay the rent in the midst of a pandemic, tenants are looking for meaningful rent relief, stronger rent control, and protection from evictions. Bill 184, which passed second reading on May 27, 2020 with almost no advance notice, addresses none of these concerns. It is a Trojan horse which will hurt tenants in the long run.
The bill makes some minor tweaks to no-fault eviction processes which will do little to curb renovictions or bad-faith landlord’s own-use evictions. This is far outweighed by the harms that it will cause for tenants. In particular:
1. It will require tenants to give advance written notice if they want to raise their own issues at an eviction hearing for non-payment of rent. This is a major procedural burden, especially for tenants with language barriers, education or literacy barriers, or folks with disabilities. Tenants who shouldn’t have to pay their full rent due to illegal rent increases, lack of maintenance, or harassment by the landlord will have a harder time defending themselves at their hearings.
2. It will fast-track evictions by allowing landlords and tenants to make enforceable repayment agreements without going to an LTB hearing. Attending an LTB hearing is an important chance for tenants to get legal advice from a lawyer, to speak to a Board mediator who can help them understand their rights, and to seek a fair decision from a Board member. Tenants who fear being evicted and don’t have the same knowledge of experience as the landlord are at risk of entering into bad agreements that they cannot follow. Once such an agreement is submitted to the LTB, the landlord will be able to obtain an immediate eviction order, without a hearing, if the tenant breaches the agreement – if they’re a dollar short, or a day late.
3. It will turn the LTB into a debt-collection body. This will allow landlords to bring former tenants to the LTB over rent arrears or damages to the unit – something that is currently dealt with by Small Claims Court. This will create a further backlog at the LTB to deal with debt-collection cases, and the less strict notice requirements at the LTB mean that many tenants may not even be aware that a proceeding is happening so that they can defend themselves.
4. It will allow illegal rent increases. If a landlord increases a tenant’s rent illegally, and the tenant pays that increased rent for 12 months, the illegal rent increase will automatically become legal.
The government has missed the mark on what tenants need. Instead, these measures will worsen the housing crisis and make justice less accessible for tenants.
WE URGE TENANTS TO TAKE ACTION
Emergency Action: Text Doug Ford now at 416-805-2156 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask why he is making it easier for landlords to evict tenants in the midst of a global pandemic that has made paying rent impossible for tens of thousands of tenants across Ontario.
Attend a (socially distanced) Rally on June 9 at 2:00 PM: https://www.facebook.com/events/194201005086645/
Ask Ministers and the press: “Why are premier Ford and the Conservatives making it easier for landlords to evict tenants in the midst of a global pandemic that has made paying rent impossible for tens of thousands of tenants across Ontario?”
Premier Ford 416-805-2156 @fordnation
Minister of Housing, Steve Clark 416-585-7000, 613-342-9522 @SteveClarkPC
CBC Toronto: (416) 205-5808
CityNews: (416) 599-2489
CP24: (416) 384-2400
Global News: (416) 446-5460
Toronto Star: (416) 869-4300
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