Changes to landlord/tenant law address jurisdictional confusion and no-fault evictions

Former Landlord and Tenant Board adjudicator says changes help reduce abuse of no-fault evictions

Changes to landlord/tenant law address jurisdictional confusion and no-fault evictions
Harry Fine is a paralegal who works for both landlords and tenants. He says the changes will help the system crack down on phoney no-fault evictions.

The recently passed Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act will allow landlords to pursue claims against vacated tenants at the Landlord and Tenant Board and widens the class of tenants who can receive compensation for no-fault evictions.

Harry Fine was an adjudicator on the LTB from 2001 to 2005, and has worked for both landlords and tenants, as a paralegal, since. He says the changes addressing no-fault evictions “goes a long way” in confronting the abuse that plagues the market.

“I would say 80 per cent of those – what we call – no-fault applications were phony,” Fine told Law Times. “I think those should almost be a thing of the past.”

A no-fault eviction is where a landlord removes a tenant to make renovations, repairs or to use the unit themselves. The legislation extends compensation for no-fault evictions to landlords of buildings with one-to-four units, who will owe the vacated tenant one-month’s rent. Landlords who evict tenants for renovations or repairs are required to give the evicted tenants an opportunity to move back in at the same rent once the work is completed, before putting the unit on the open market. Violating that rule will be met with increased compensation from the new legislation, as will kicking tenants out for the landlord to use the unit themselves, but then not using it; also known as an own-use eviction.

For an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act, maximum fines have been increased from $25,000 to $50,000 for an individual, and from $100,000 to $250,000 for a corporation.

But raising the maximum fine is a merely cosmetic upgrade, as maximum fines are “extremely, extremely rare,” says Caryma Sa’d, a Toronto-based lawyer who practises criminal, landlord/tenant and cannabis law.

“Increasing that kind of gives the appearance of having done something substantive, but I don't know that it actually changes anything on the ground,” says Sa’d.

The legislation also put disputes over unpaid rent, damages and other costs, that take place after the tenant has moved out, into the LTB jurisdiction. Previously, these matters were dealt with in Small Claims Court. Landlords now have one year to make a claim at the LTB after their tenant has vacated.

As it stood, there was confusion between Small Claims Court and the LTB over who had jurisdiction, says Fine. Landlords making claims in Small Claims Court would often have their case dismissed, be sent back to the LTB and have the Board tell them there was nothing they could do, he says.

They fixed up the jurisdictional issue… Small claims court was getting tired of hearing these things,” says Fine. “They said the LTB should be dealing with this. So while a lot of the tenants will point to that as being a landlord-side change, to me, it's a jurisdictional clean-up.”

While allowing landlords to pursue vacated tenants for unpaid rent and damage costs in the LTB makes sense, “on its face,” Sa’d says it will increase the workload for an already over-burdened system.

In January, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé announced an investigation into “serious delays” at the LTB. The Ombudsman’s office saw 80 complaints about delays – out of a total of around 200 – in fiscal-year 2018-2019. That rose to 110 in the first nine months of the next fiscal year, including 43 in December 2019, said the Ombudsman.

“Why should they go to different forums if they don't have to? But if the system is already backlogged, increasing the workload of the board seems like it would be a bad idea if you ask me,” she says.

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