The Ontario Government recently announced that The Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act (Bill 184) affecting residential tenancies is now law. The emergency stay of eviction proceedings expired for the most part on July 31. Based on the reaction of Toronto City Council, tenant advocates and landlords, you would think the sky is falling. Not true.
For years I have received the same complaints from landlords and tenants, whether it was about landlords providing poor services or tricking tenants into terminating their leases, or professional tenants who did not pay any rent, bounced cheques or damaged the property. What this says to me is that if everyone is complaining, this law may not be so bad after all.
Bill 184 addressed major concerns of both landlords and tenants. Penalties were increased against individual landlords who violate the act. Further provisions were inserted to dissuade a landlord from trying to trick a tenant into vacating by pretending to move in with their family or stating they had a buyer. An individual can now be fined up to $50,000 per occurrence and a corporation up to $250,000 per occurrence. This should also stop any further “renovictions” from taking place, where tenants are evicted for substantial renovation and then the landlord re-rents to new tenants before the evicted tenants can exercise their right to come back.
Landlords must now swear an affidavit confirming that they have not tried to use this family reason to evict anyone in the prior two years. The compensation that may be ordered paid to a tenant who was tricked can be up to 12 months rent. Compensation to the tenant is also now payable if a buyer is moving in on closing and if the home is being demolished, which was not the case before.
From the landlord side, the law that stated any rent increase given without 90 days notice was void, even if given five years ago, is now amended so that a tenant only has one year to complain about this to reverse the rental increase. Landlords do not have to sue in Small Claims Court for any arrears or damages if the tenant has vacated the unit, but can now go to the landlord and tenant board for relief.
The major issue raised by tenant advocates is that somehow landlords can now unilaterally evict tenants without a hearing, based on unreasonable offers to settle outstanding rent arrears. Let’s take a step back here. For many years, on average, based on one million rental units in the province, 50,000 eviction applications were started each year. Half of them resulted in an eviction, while the other 25,000 cases were resolved between the parties, whether through formal settlements or otherwise. When I speak to landlords I usually say, “What business has a 97.5 per cent rate of collection of income?” The trick is to qualify tenants correctly so you do not end up in the 2.5 per cent.
What happened to the 25,000 evicted tenants? I never heard of overcrowded homeless shelters as a result. People find a way through hard times, whether moving in with friends or family or finding another solution.
The pandemic was clearly unforeseeable and hit a lot of people hard, landlords and tenants alike. When it started, I encouraged all my landlord and tenant clients to work together to find a settlement that worked for everyone, with perhaps rent reductions and/or deferrals that were manageable. Many did just that. But some people on social media advised renters to just ignore paying rent because the province was not permitting evictions. What kind of advice was this? Did people really believe the province was just going to decide to pay everyone’s rent as well as provide all the other relief? Not possible.
Under Bill 184, landlords and tenants are still encouraged to work together to find reasonable solutions, without clogging the already severely backlogged landlord and tenant board. It is correct that if a tenant agrees to a settlement and then cannot pay, the landlord could apply for an eviction order. Still, the board adjudicator is going to review the material to make sure it is complete and reasonable and the tenant still has the right to dispute any eviction order granted.
Yes, some people are going to be evicted now and will have to find an alternate solution. The main lesson to remember is we are still all in this together. Staying healthy and safe should be our main focus and landlords and tenants should treat each other with respect, patience and understanding during this difficult time.