‘Bad faith’ evic­tions on rise, ad­vo­cates say

Owners say they plan to live in a unit, then re-rent HOT MAR­KET, PRE­CAR­I­OUS HOUS­ING

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - TEVIAH MORO tmoro@thes­pec.com 905-526-3264 | @Te­vi­ahMoro

At $700 a month, the rental unit in Hamil­ton’s in­dus­trial sec­tor was com­fort­able and af­ford­able.

“I was very pleased with it,” Stan­ley Williams re­calls.

But when his land­lord sold the house to his grand­son for $1, Williams was told to leave be­cause the grand­son was mov­ing in.

So Williams left his home of nearly five years and set out to find a de­cent place he could af­ford on his disability pen­sion.

Soon after­ward, he dis­cov­ered the new land­lord didn’t end up liv­ing in his old unit and had, in fact, rented it out again.

“I said, ‘I’m not go­ing to put up with this.’”

Williams, 59, chal­lenged the evic­tion be­fore the Land­lord and Ten­ant Board and won.

The tri­bunal ruled the land­lord had is­sued him a so-called “ownuse” no­tice in “bad faith.”

Cases like Williams’ are com­mon enough in On­tario that the prov­ince has passed new rules to make it more dif­fi­cult for land­lords to abuse “own-use” or N12 no­tices.

The new leg­is­lation — which also ex­pands rent con­trols — re­quires land­lords to of­fer ten­ants one month’s rent or an­other unit if they claim units for their own use. Land­lords must also show they’ll live in units for at least a year.

“In the face of dra­matic rent in­creases and un­fair prac­tices, our gov­ern­ment is an­swer­ing the call to bring fair­ness and pre­dictabil­ity to On­tario’s rental hous­ing sys­tem,” Hous­ing Min­is­ter Chris Bal­lard said this week.

Land­lords are in­creas­ingly us­ing N12s as a “back­door way” to evict ten­ants, says Sharon Crowe, a staff l awyer at the Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Le­gal Clinic who has helped Williams.

That ob­ser­va­tion is re­flected in pro­vin­cial fig­ures, which show a steady rise i n N12 evic­tion at­tempts in our re­gion over the past five years. (Hamil­ton is lumped in with Hal­ton, Ni­a­gara, Sim­coe and Guelph.)

In 2012, land­lords made 118 such ap­pli­ca­tions, a tally that rose to 209 in 2015 and 285 last year. As of

May 9 this year, there were 125.

The up­ward trend is cou­pled with a spike in “seem­ingly im­plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tions for why a land­lord is sud­denly re­quir­ing a unit,” Crowe said.

But prov­ing “bad faith” is dif­fi­cult, mak­ing it a bat­tle many ten­ants choose not to pur­sue, she added.

Williams landed on his feet af­ter he left Mun­roe Street in late 2014.

He lives in a mod­est bach­e­lor pad at the back of a home near his old neigh­bour­hood. His e-bike is parked in the kitchen, where he burns herbs for abo­rig­i­nal smudg­ing cer­e­monies. He grows plants out­side his door.

Williams and his cat are com­fort­able. But get­ting there wasn’t easy.

“I was lucky to find this place be­cause I know the guy that bought the house.”

But that “bad faith” is still dog­ging him.

Williams claims he hasn’t seen most of the money his Mun­roe Street land­lord was sup­posed to pay him for his trou­ble af­ter two tri­bunal de­ci­sions.

That in­cludes about $2,500 in com­pen­sa­tion when he agreed to leave at the end of 2014 with ten­sions ris­ing with an up­stairs ten­ant. But also owed, he says, is the $595.95 the board or­dered the land­lord pay af­ter 2015’s “bad faith” rul­ing.

“I had to bor­row money to pay for my movers and I had to rent a truck. Then I had to hook up again for my phone. It was just a lot of un­nec­es­sary stuff.”

Williams’ for­mer land­lord, Ni-

co­las Clar­izio, didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, but his grand­fa­ther, who sold him the house for $1 in 2013, did.

Ni­cola Clar­izio said his grand­son moved into 51 Mun­roe St. but left af­ter a cou­ple of months when his fa­ther bought the house next door.

(The board’s writ­ten rul­ing notes that wit­nesses in the area saw new ten­ants in the house less than two months af­ter Williams moved out.)

Clar­izio also claimed Williams was both­er­ing ten­ants up­stairs by smok­ing mar­i­juana.

Williams says it wasn’t pot smoke. “I’m na­tive and I do smudg­ings.”

As far as debts are con­cerned, Clar­izio said his grand­son paid Williams $1,500 and gave him three months’ free rent.

But the el­der Clar­izio told his grand­son that was enough. “That’s OK. He’s not gonna get the Hamil­ton renter Tammy Kovich says at least a dozen peo­ple in her so­cial cir­cle have been served N12s in the past few years. “Al­most all of them have been in bad faith,” says Kovich, a 30-year-old PhD stu­dent and mem­ber of the Hamil­ton Ten­ants Sol­i­dar­ity Net­work. But N12s are tough to fight. First of all, bad faith is tricky to prove, Kovich notes. Sec­ond, even if the board sides with a ten­ant, the re­wards don’t com­pen­sate for the time and ef­fort grief of chal­leng­ing the no­tice. On the other hand, it pays off for the land­lord: the ex­tra rent that can be charged more than makes up for what­ever a ten­ant wins for “bad faith” com­pen­sa­tion. Kovich, who’s well versed in ten­ant rights, had to leave her last place af­ter she was served an N12. She now faces the spec­tre of an­other move less than two years later with her cur­rent ac­com­mo­da­tion on the mar­ket. “It’s pretty dis­rup­tive … if you’re a renter and ev­ery­where you live is pre­car­i­ous and you don’t know if you’re go­ing to be evicted.” Buy­ers and sell­ers in Hamil­ton’s hot hous­ing mar­ket are mak­ing deals, but rental units are be­ing left va­cant from one ren­o­va­tion to the next, Kovich has ob­served. As ti­tle moves from buyer to buyer, prof­its are re­al­ized, but the rental pool shrinks. Sharon Crowe, a staff lawyer at the Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Le­gal Clinic, says ten­ants see a link be­tween the N12 and the “hot rental mar­ket.” “They are acutely aware the land­lord can col­lect sub­stan­tially more rent from a new ten­ant …” money.”

Crowe said she and Williams have made “mul­ti­ple at­tempts to en­force the judg­ments” and most re­cently re­sorted to se­cur­ing a lien on the Mun­roe Street prop­erty.

She said the lien is for six years, but if the owner doesn’t sell, Williams can’t col­lect on his debt.

“So we have to con­tinue with other en­force­ment at­tempts.”

Williams vows to keep fight­ing, but he ask him­self a ques­tion.

“I won, but did I win?”

I said, ‘I’m not go­ing to put up with this.’ STAN­LEY WILLIAMS EVICTED IN BAD FAITH

CATHIE COW­ARD, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Stan­ley Williams lived in the same apart­ment in Hamil­ton’s in­dus­trial sec­tor for nearly five years. Then, his land­lord served him no­tice he was mov­ing in, which meant he had to leave. He has since found an­other home.

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