Legal clinics say new housing bill fails to protect tenants

Law would burden Landlord and Tenant board, clinics say

Legal clinics say new housing bill fails to protect tenants

A legal clinic that acts for tenants says proposed Ontario law will add burdens to the Landlord and Tenant board. 

Bill 184, under consideration by the Standing Committee on Social Policy, proposes changes to the Housing Services Act and Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, as well as enacting the Ontario Mortgage and Housing Corporation Repeal Act. The bill particularly looks at mediation and alternative dispute resolution, terminating tenancy and non-payment of rent. 

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario says the bill should be scrapped, as it restricts tenants’ rights. 

“For instance, the amendments will add post-tenancy debt collection to the Landlord and Tenant Board’s workload – a tribunal that is already experiencing significant delays in deciding cases. The Bill proposes an ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’ that will put tenants at the risk of eviction after being pressured to agree to terms they cannot meet,” said a letter by ACTO.
“[D]espite the claim that this Bill will protect tenants from no-fault evictions, the provisions fail to provide a meaningful deterrent to the abuse of no-fault eviction provisions by landlords.” 

The letter by ACTO has received the endorsement of more than three dozen legal organizations. The bill, according to ACTO, makes it harder for tenants to raise repair and maintenance issues in rent arrears cases, “encouraging landlords to keep their units in a state of disrepair.”

“Aside from the landlords, speculators and developers, no one is protected by the provisions of Bill 184,” says ACTO. “What Bill 184 does is to provide landlords with additional avenues to evict tenants. This Bill is out of touch with the challenges faced by tenants, especially as the pandemic crisis has deepened the vulnerabilities of low-income Ontarians.” 

Instead, ACTO suggests the government should extend the current eviction moratorium and re-institute effective rent control. 

Omar Ha-Redeye, executive director of Durham Community Legal Clinic, told legislators on the committee on Wednesday that in his region, rents have risen faster than would be allowed by laws. As it stands at the local LTB, decisions that once took 30 days now take 3 to 4 months and that overwhelmingly, landlords have better access to legal representation than tenants.

Legal clinics, he said, are not solely for fighting landlords; often, they encourage mediation or tell tenants to pay rent before seeking remedy, saving the LTB time. 

“The number of tenants engaging in fraud is very, very few,” said Ha-Redeye in the committee.

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