Legal, News, Social Assistance

ON THE RADAR: Changes to ODSP Forms

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

Recently, the Ontario government changed all the forms in the Disability Determination Package for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) applicants. But while the forms have changed, the legal test that decides whether a person is eligible for ODSP has not changed.

This issue of On the Radar looks at those changes and has tips to help community workers support their clients’ ODSP applications.

For more information check out the October issue of ON THE RADAR.

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

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:

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.

Estate Planning, Legal

Protecting Older Adults from Abuse

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

On June 15 each year, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day draws attention to the abuse and neglect of older adults. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on this, with the widespread neglect and deaths in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

This month’s On the Radar gives an overview of elder abuse and highlights some of the steps older adults and their families can take to protect their rights.

Types of elder abuse

Older adults are usually abused by someone they know and often by someone they trust and care about, such as:

  • a family member, spouse, or partner
  • a friend, roommate, or neighbour
  • a caregiver or service provider
  • a person they rely on for a place to live or for financial help

Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or financial. It can also be abuse if someone agrees to provide care to an older adult and then neglects or does not care for them properly. For example, they don’t give the person medication, food, or clothing.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is the most common form of elder abuse in Canada.

Financial abuse happens when someone steals from an older adult or takes advantage of them financially. This can happen if someone:

  • steals money, pension cheques, or personal belongings
  • lives with an older adult and does not pay their fair share of the expenses
  • commits a crime by using the older adult’s credit card or bank card without their permission or by signing cheques in their name
  • pressures the older person to do something like selling their home or personal belongings, or giving away their money

Ways to protect against financial abuse include:

  • keeping financial and legal documents in a safe place, like a drawer with a lock or a safety deposit box
  • not sharing passwords, Personal Information Numbers (PINs), bank cards, or credit cards
  • setting up direct deposit for pension cheques and automatic payments for bills and expenses

Other ways people can protect themselves from abuse

Whenever possible, it’s best if older adults plan for the future while they’re still independent and understand what their decisions mean. This includes:

CLEO’s Guided Pathways for Wills and Powers of Attorney offer a free and easy way to create or update these documents.

Reporting abuse

Call 911 if you think that someone is being abused and it’s an emergency.

Call your local police station if you think there’s been a crime, such as physical or sexual assault, or a financial crime like theft, fraud, or abuse of a Power of Attorney.

The law says that everyone must report abuse if the person lives in a long-term care home or a licensed retirement home. This means staff, visitors, family members, and friends.

The only people who don’t have to report are residents.

Report abuse in long-term care homes through the Long-term Home Care ACTION Line at 1-866-434-0144. Read more in What should I do if I see abuse in a long-term care home?

Report abuse in a retirement home to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority at 1-855-275-7472. Read more in What should I do if I see abuse in a retirement home?

Where to get help

There are organizations across Ontario that can help someone dealing with abuse or their family members and friends. Here are some examples. They all provide their services for free.

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) gives free legal advice or legal referrals to people who are over 60 and have a low income. Call 1-855-598-2656 or 416-598-2656. If ACE can’t help, they can make a referral to another legal or social service.

Community legal clinics give free legal services to people with low incomes. Clinics help people with a range of legal problems, like social assistance and housing.

The Seniors Safety Line takes calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 150 languages. They know about programs and services in communities across the province. And if an older adult calls them directly, they can provide counselling. Call 1-866-299-1011.

The Seniors’ INFOline is part of Ontario’s Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility. They can give information about government programs and services related to older adults and elder abuse. Call 1-888-910-1999 or 1-800-387-5559 (TTY). To find other local supports, call 211 or go to the 211 Ontario website.

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.