National Post (National Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - Haider-Mo­ra­nis,

Re­cently en­acted leg­is­la­tion to reg­u­late land­lord-tenant dis­putes in On­tario has gen­er­ated sig­nif­i­cant con­tro­versy. Op­po­nents of Bill 184 be­lieve it gives un­due pow­ers to land­lords and may lead to an in­crease in tenant evic­tions. The On­tario gov­ern­ment, on the other hand, be­lieves the new leg­is­la­tion will em­power land­lords and tenants to reach ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ments on their own, while in­creas­ing penal­ties against land­lords who act in bad faith.

Dubbed the Pro­tect­ing Tenants and Strength­en­ing Com­mu­nity Hous­ing Act, the bill has been es­pe­cially con­tentious in Toronto, where it has been met by heated protests and where city coun­cil has de­cided to chal­lenge it in court.

But the ef­fects of the law won’t be lim­ited to the prov­ince’s largest city. The eco­nomic down­turn in­duced by COVID-19 is be­lieved to have hurt rental house­holds more than own­ers, and, as a mora­to­rium on tenant evic­tions ex­pires in On­tario, that means mil­lions of tenants and their land­lords across the prov­ince are seek­ing clar­ity on this is­sue.

The changes in Bill 184 are nu­mer­ous. One main dif­fer­ence is that it em­pow­ers land­lords and tenants to reach an agree­ment by them­selves on mat­ters such as re­pay­ment plans for rent that is owed if a tenant has de­faulted on rental pay­ments.

At present, these kinds of dis­putes are re­solved by the Land­lord and Tenant Board (LTB), a provin­cial tri­bunal that has strug­gled with a grow­ing back­log of cases, which some blame on the prov­ince’s fail­ure to ap­point enough ad­ju­di­ca­tors.

If land­lords and tenants were to reach mu­tual res­o­lu­tions, it could re­duce the work­load at the LTB, thus im­prov­ing its efficiency.

Tenant ad­vo­cates are of the view that land­lords hold sway over tenants who, in some cases, might not be pro­fi­cient in English or French or have the fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy to en­ter into bind­ing agree­ments with land­lords in a fair way. These ad­vo­cates be­lieve that a me­di­ated res­o­lu­tion by the LTB is needed to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble tenants.

Some tenants in­deed, might com­mit them­selves to un­work­able re­pay­ment plans on which they may de­fault soon af­ter­wards, leading to an evic­tion.

Bill 184 does offer some checks and bal­ances. Once a land­lord and tenant have reached an agree­ment, it must still be pre­sented to the LTB for approval. Hence the board can re­view the agree­ment be­fore is­su­ing a con­sent order. Should tenants re­al­ize that they have been forced into an un­favourable agree­ment, they can ap­peal to the LTB within 30 days of the con­sent order.

The tenant can also ask the LTB for a hear­ing after agree­ing to a re­pay­ment plan.

Bill 184, there­fore, does pro­vide tenants with an op­por­tu­nity for re­dress in case they are not pleased with a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment with their land­lords, and the LTB still has over­sight of the ar­range­ments reached by land­lords and tenants.

But tenant ad­vo­cates are crit­i­cal of the pro­vi­sions in Bill 184 that en­able a land­lord to get an evic­tion no­tice with­out no­ti­fy­ing the tenant if the tenant is in breach of the ne­go­ti­ated re­pay­ment plan. Tenant ad­vo­cates be­lieve that land­lords will be able to act on evic­tions uni­lat­er­ally with­out any over­sight by the LTB.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion is that this is not a new pro­vi­sion.The ex­ist­ing Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies Act al­lows land­lords to secure an evic­tion no­tice should the tenant breach the me­di­ated set­tle­ment en­dorsed by the LTB.

Trade groups rep­re­sent­ing land­lords point out that un­der Bill 184, a tenant could still chal­lenge an evic­tion no­tice, thus mak­ing the LTB the fi­nal au­thor­ity in a dis­pute be­tween a land­lord and a tenant.

Un­til re­cently, mora­to­ri­ums of one kind or another on res­i­den­tial rental evic­tions had been in place across Canada.

Provin­cially de­clared emer­gen­cies re­stricted land­lords from evict­ing tenants who had de­faulted on rent pay­ments. On­tario’s mora­to­rium on evic­tions was lifted in late July. The LTB, which was not con­duct­ing evic­tion hear­ings since the lock­down, also started to op­er­ate again on Tues­day.

For those who have the fi­nan­cial where­withal to reach an agree­ment with their land­lords, Bill 184 will help them to do so with­out hav­ing to wait for a hear­ing at the LTB.

But for tens of thou­sands of renters who have lost their jobs, pay­ing rent on time may not be an op­tion, de­spite the help from var­i­ous tiers of gov­ern­ment. With­out jobs or sta­ble pay, those tenants are un­likely to come to a res­o­lu­tion with their land­lords. For them, the LTB might con­tinue to be the me­di­a­tor of last re­sort.



A cy­clist rides past graf­fiti stat­ing Peo­ple Over Profit, No Jobs = No Rent in Toronto in April.

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