housing, News

Greater powers for the Landlord and Tenant Board could have major effect on tenants

Re-posted from ON THE RADAR, a publication of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

Tenants in Ontario are facing new rules that may seriously affect their rights and responsibilities. These changes to the Residential Tenancies Act became law on September 1.

This month’s On the Radar looks at 2 of the more significant new rules.

Landlords can now apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB):

  • after a tenant has moved out, and
  • when a tenant does not pay for utilities that they’re responsible for.

For more information visit: https://mailchi.mp/cleo.on.ca/on-the-radar-greater-powers-for-the-landlord-and-tenant-board-could-have-major-effect-on-tenants?e=2979dc01ad

This post gives general legal information. For legal advice for a specific situation please CONTACT KCLC.

housing, Legal, News

Air Conditioners: A Hot Topic for Tenants and Landlords

Re-posted from ON THE RADAR, a publication of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

As summer heats up, it’s a good time for tenants to pull out their leases and review the rules about air conditioners.

This month’s On the Radar looks at the different ways air conditioning can be handled in a lease.

What a lease might say

A lease can say different things about air conditioning, including:

  • it’s provided by the landlord
  • the tenant can install their own
  • all air conditioners or certain types are banned
  • nothing at all

If there isn’t a lease, the rules depend on what was said when the tenant and landlord made a verbal rental agreement.

When the landlord provides air conditioning

When the landlord provides air conditioning, they must make sure it works properly and repair it if it breaks.

The cost of running the air conditioner may be:

  • included in the rent, or
  • added as an extra charge.

Included in the rent

Most leases say whether the cost of air conditioning is included in the rent.

But some are less clear. For example, some leases say that electricity is included. But tenants need the landlord’s permission to install or use an air conditioner or extra appliances. The Landlord and Tenant Board usually says that if this is in the lease, the cost of running the air conditioning is not included in the rent.

Added as an extra charge

It’s sometimes legal for a landlord to charge extra rent for air conditioning. But the amount cannot be more than:

  • the actual cost to the landlord of running the air conditioner, or
  • a “reasonable amount” based on the value of the service if the landlord cannot show the actual cost.

Tenants should ask their landlord for copies of electricity bills. They’ll need these if they don’t agree with the amount of extra rent the landlord charges.

It’s not legal for a landlord to charge extra rent if the tenant pays for their own electricity.

When the tenant can install their own air conditioner

Many leases say that tenants must have their landlord’s permission to install an air conditioner. It’s best for the tenant to ask in writing and keep a copy for their records. If the landlord refuses, see the section below on banned air conditioners.

Landlords can charge extra rent if tenants install air conditioners only if electricity is included in the rent. And the amount cannot be more than:

  • the actual cost of the electricity, or
  • a “reasonable amount” if the landlord cannot show how much electricity the air conditioner is using.

But if the lease says electricity is included and does not say anything about air conditioners or getting permission, air conditioning is included in the rent.

Even if the lease does not require it, it’s a good idea to have a professional install the air conditioner. This is especially true for window-mounted air conditioners, which can be dangerous if not installed properly. Tenants should keep a copy of the technician’s invoice in case the landlord asks for proof.

A landlord cannot remove an air conditioner owned by a tenant, as long as it was installed properly and is not disturbing others.

When air conditioners are banned

Landlords are increasingly trying to prevent tenants from installing window-mounted air conditioners. It’s legal for a landlord to put this in a lease when a tenant first moves in.

But landlords cannot refuse certain types of air conditioners unless the lease mentions them. Despite what some landlords say, there are no laws that ban certain types of air conditioners.

What tenants can do

If a landlord says no to air conditioners, the tenant can offer to have the air conditioner installed by a professional and inspected on a regular basis.

Tenants can also write to their landlord to explain any medical conditions or disabilities that are made worse by hotter temperatures. If their unit is too hot, tenants should check it using a thermometer and take a picture of the exact temperature.

If a tenant takes these steps and the landlord still refuses, they should get legal advice.

When a lease says nothing about air conditioning

If air conditioning is already installed, tenants can assume they can use it:

  • at no extra charge, as long as electricity is included in their rent and the lease does not say they need the landlord’s permission to use extra appliances
  • at their own cost, if electricity is not included in their rent

If air conditioning is not already installed, a tenant can install their own air conditioner. But they should tell their landlord and have it done by a professional. If electricity is included in the rent, so is the cost of running an air conditioner. Or, the tenant can ask their landlord to install an air conditioner. See the information above about how much landlords can charge.

This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.

COVID-19, housing, Legal, News

Changes to Tenant’s Rights Continue During the Pandemic

Re-posted from ON THE RADAR, a publication of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

The fast pace of change to housing laws and processes at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) continues into 2021. This month’s On the Radar looks at 3 noteworthy changes:

  • the end of the second eviction freeze
  • a different video conferencing tool for the LTB’s online hearings
  • a new rule that forces people to accept the first rent-geared-to-income (RGI) unit they’re offered

The eviction freeze ends (again)

On January 13, 2021, the Ontario government made an order stopping the Sheriff’s office from evicting most tenants during the second COVID-19 state of emergency.

This “eviction freeze” was lifted gradually across the province, beginning with 3 eastern public health units on February 10, 2021. The last of the eviction freezes ended on March 8, 2021, in Toronto, Peel, and the North Bay-Parry Sound area.

This means that the regular eviction process is back in place. For most tenants, the eviction process follows these 5 steps:

  1. The landlord gives the tenant an eviction notice.
  2. The landlord then files an eviction application to the LTB.
  3. The LTB has a hearing.
  4. The LTB makes an eviction order.
  5. The landlord takes the eviction order to the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff is the only one who can evict the tenant.

Steps to Justice has more information about the eviction process.

LTB tries Zoom for video hearings

In mid-March, the LTB started using Zoom for some online hearings, instead of Microsoft Teams. The LTB had been using Microsoft Teams since August 2020, when it first introduced video hearings.

People had many criticisms of Microsoft Teams. For example, Microsoft Teams does not allow people to speak to each other privately in “breakout rooms”. This was especially hard on tenants who wanted to speak to Tenant Duty Counsel. It also made it difficult for landlords, tenants, and their legal representatives to negotiate with each other.

Now that the LTB is testing out Zoom, they’re trying to address some of these concerns. There are breakout rooms for negotiating and for tenants to talk to Duty Counsel.

As well, the LTB had stopped providing mediation services for rent arrears hearings. But during this Zoom test, they’ll slowly start using mediators again.

Mediation can be helpful as landlords and tenants meet with a mediator, who’s neutral and trained to help them work out a solution. It’s also private and confidential, unlike eviction hearings, which are public. And at a hearing, the adjudicator has all of the power to decide what happens.

Getting help

It’s important for tenants to get legal help as soon as possible before their LTB hearings. Tenants can also ask for help if they have concerns about accessing a virtual hearing.

To get help, tenants have several options, including:

During the pandemic, community legal clinics and the Tenant Duty Counsel Program are helping most people over the phone.

One strike, you’re out: Changes to RGI offers

In 2019, the government changed how many offers of rent-geared-to-income (RGI) housing someone can turn down before their household is taken off the waiting list.

The old rule said that households could get 3 offers. So, they could turn down the first 2 and stay on the waiting list.

With the new rule, households are given only one offer. If they turn it down, the household is removed from the waiting list, unless there are exceptional circumstances. For example, most regions allow people to remain on the waiting list if:

  • they’re very sick in hospital when they get the offer, or
  • the home they’re offered is in the same building as someone who’s abused them.

This new rule has been slowly rolled out across the province. The first regions applied the rule in January 2020, with more introducing it on January 1, 2021. The last of the regions will adopt the rule by July 1, 2021. This includes the City of Toronto. Tenants can check if the rule is being applied in their region.

Getting legal help

For help related to your residential tenancy, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic.

housing

Rent Repayment Agreements can Pose Risks to Tenants

Re-posted from ON THE RADAR, a publication of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many tenants to fall behind in their rent. For some, the best choice might be to work out an agreement with their landlord so they have time to pay back what they owe.

This month’s On the Radar describes some key things about repayment agreements. Before signing one, it’s important for a tenant to know where they are in the eviction process.

Before the landlord applies to the Landlord and Tenant Board

To start the eviction process, the landlord must first give the tenant an N4: Notice to End your Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent. This notice gives details about what the tenant owes and when they must pay.

When a tenant first falls behind with the rent, the landlord might ask them to agree to a payment schedule. This could be before or after the landlord gives them an N4 notice.

Usually, a landlord will not let a tenant off without paying back all the rent they owe. They’ll just offer the tenant more time to pay it.

In return for the extra time, the landlord agrees that if the tenant makes the payments in full and on time, they won’t take the next step. This next step is filing an eviction application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

If tenants have money problems because of the COVID-19 emergency, it might help to talk to their landlord about this. But a tenant does not have to sign a repayment agreement if:

  • they don’t think it’s reasonable, or
  • they’re not sure they can make all the payments.

Tenants can’t be evicted just for refusing to sign an agreement that their landlord wants them to sign.

If the tenant does not sign an agreement and the landlord decides to apply to the LTB for an eviction order, the tenant will still have a chance to avoid eviction by:

  • paying the rent plus the landlord’s LTB filing fee,
  • working out a repayment agreement, or
  • asking the LTB to give them more time to pay.

Signing other documents

Some landlords might also ask the tenant to sign another document agreeing to move out. The landlord will say that they won’t enforce it, as long as the tenant keeps up with their payments.

This document might be an N9: Tenant’s Notice to End the Tenancy or an N11: Agreement to End the Tenancy.

Tenants should never sign anything like this, unless they want to move out.

After the landlord applies to the LTB to evict the tenant

Later, the landlord might apply to the LTB. The tenant should receive:

The landlord, the tenant, or an LTB mediator might suggest a repayment agreement after the landlord files the L1 application.

Signing an agreement at this stage can have serious risks that tenants need to know about.

Risks for tenants

These agreements can include a part that says if the tenant misses a payment, their landlord can get an eviction order from the LTB without giving them a notice or a hearing.

Landlords usually want to include this. But tenants don’t have to agree.

If this part is not in the agreement, the LTB can still make an eviction order if a tenant misses a payment. But they can do this only after both the tenant and landlord have a chance to tell their side at a hearing.

If the landlord insists on including this part, the tenant should not sign unless they’re certain they can make all of the payments. If they’re even one day late or one dollar short, the landlord can get an eviction order from the LTB without a hearing.

The LTB has a form for repayment agreements but landlords and tenants do not have to use it.

If a tenant is thinking about signing a repayment agreement with their landlord, they can use this form instead. CLEO and the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) developed this alternative form, with help from a number of community legal clinics. It’s meant to make it easier for tenants to understand what they’re agreeing to.

The right to a hearing

If the tenant does not sign a repayment agreement at all, they still have the right to have a hearing with the LTB.

At the hearing, they can tell the LTB their side and ask for time to pay off the rent. If their money problems were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tenant can ask the LTB to take that into account.

Even if the LTB makes an eviction order after holding a hearing, the tenant gets one more chance to stop the eviction by paying:

  • all the rent they owe, and
  • the filing fees the landlord paid to the LTB.

Getting legal help

It’s important for tenants to get advice from a lawyer or their local community legal clinic, before they sign any repayment agreement.

housing, News

UPDATE ON LANDLORD AND TENANT LAW: EVICTION SUSPENSION LIFTED AND CHANGES TO EVICTION PROCESS

Repost from HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario. 

The COVID-19 pandemic eviction ban is being lifted in Ontario on August 4, 2020. This means that evictions can once again take place in Ontario. There remains a process for evictions, but for most evictions that process is now different due to recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. Some of the changes related to evictions and other things are as follows:

Evictions can now be fast tracked at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) if a tenant agrees to a repayment plan with their landlord but then misses a payment. It is very important for tenants to get legal advice before agreeing to repayment plans because not following the terms of a plan could lead the landlord to get an eviction order without a hearing at the LTB. If a tenant receives an eviction order in these circumstances, they have only 10 days to request a hearing.

  • Tenants facing eviction for rent owing must now provide written notice to their landlord if they want to raise various issues at the eviction hearing including issues related to repair problems in their units. Before the changes were made to the law, tenants could automatically raise these issues.
  • If a tenant does not challenge an illegal rent increase within 12 months, the new rent now becomes legal and cannot be disputed.
  • Landlords now have 12 months to bring former tenants to the LTB for issues such as rent owing. Before the changes were made to the law, landlords had to take former tenants to Small Claims Court. As Small Claims Court has much stricter rules than the LTB to ensure that tenants are made aware of hearings, there is concern that former tenants will not learn of the hearings at the LTB.

For more details about the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, see this article produced by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.

While the changes to the law are being challenged in court, the changes are currently in effect. We will provide an update when we have more information about the court challenge.

This information is not intended as, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you live in the City of Kingston, Township of South Frontenac, or Township of Frontenac Islands, please call us at 613-541-0777 or complete the online intake form at https://kclc.ca/contact/ for advice about your specific situation.

COVID-19, housing

COVID-19 TENANT TIP SHEET

Scarborough Community Legal Services has created an information sheet to answer questions about residential tenancies amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To access the tip sheet, click this link:

What Tenant Need to Know During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you are experiencing issues with your tenancy and need legal adivce, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777 ext.0 or fill out our Online Intake Form.

 

housing

Doug Ford’s changes to social housing eviction rules won’t make communities safer

Even a verbal altercation with a neighbour could give rise to an eviction order and a five-year ban from social housing, regardless of whether there is a criminal conviction

BY OCTOBER 5, 2019 10:26 AM

It’s a situation that could happen anywhere, but let’s say it happens in social housing in Toronto: two neighbours have a verbal dispute that leads to threats.

As of September 23, if you live in social housing, that situation could result in you being banned from having a home for five years – even if no criminal action is taken.

The Government of Ontario has given the green light to social housing providers (like Toronto Community Housing Corporation) to refuse applications from people who have been evicted in the last five years for an “illegal act” in a social housing building.

The province claims the move will protect “vulnerable seniors and children” in community housing buildings. But excluding people from social housing will only exacerbate the homeless crisis, and further punish Ontarians living with mental health, addictions and disabilities. It will make our communities less safe.
Ontarians living in social housing, in particular racialized residents and those living with mental health issues, are already over-criminalized.

For low-income people who get caught up in the justice system, banishment and exile from social housing represents an additional punishment that will affect them long after they have served their sentences.

Shockingly, Ford’s sanction could be used to deny housing to an entire family where one member of the household has been evicted for an illegal act in the past five years. Collective punishment is a repressive measure that only serves to destabilize already-struggling families and communities.

Take, for example, a dispute between two neighbours where threats are exchanged. That single verbal altercation could give rise to an “illegal act” eviction order, regardless of whether or not there is a criminal conviction.

That means the entire family, and anyone else on the lease, including their children, could be subject to the five-year ban.

A person with an opiate addiction rooted in chronic-pain management could be caught up by the ban even after serving a criminal sentence for simple possession, completing rehabilitation and receiving treatment.

For many, social housing is often the ”housing provider of last resort.” When a person gets evicted, they and their family members don’t just disappear. They may end up on the street, trapped in a cycle of survival and destitution that is almost impossible to escape.

Those evicted tenants become displaced from their communities and social supports. Those who are lucky take on market rents in substandard and precarious housing conditions.

Removing this critical safety net from people already stuck in a cycle of poverty will only further entrench the conditions that led to legal troubles in the first place.

Stable housing and appropriate social supports are foundational to safe and healthy communities. Nobody benefits when a person is sentenced to five years of homelessness.

The government must invest in policies and programs that help support Ontarians with mental health and addiction issues – not punish them. It must invest money in our crumbling social housing infrastructure, strengthen rent control and improve social assistance so that those in social housing have more power over their lives.

It must invest in policies that work instead of fear-mongering against those who need support the most.

Amy Slotek is a Toronto-area lawyer. Brendan Jowett is a staff housing lawyer at Neighbourhood Legal Services in Toronto.

*This article was reproduced from nowtoronto.com
https://nowtoronto.com/news/ford-government-social-housing/