‘Bad faith’ evictions on rise, advocates say
Owners say they plan to live in a unit, then re-rent HOT MARKET, PRECARIOUS HOUSING
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
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.