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

No More Rent Control for New Apartments

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

The provincial government is allowing landlords of new apartments to raise the rent by any amount.

This month’s On the Radar explains which units are affected by this change, and what it means for tenants.

Rent control basics

Most rented homes in Ontario are covered by 3 rules about rent increases:

  1. The landlord must wait at least one year between increases.
  2. The landlord must give the tenant at least 90 days’ written notice of any increase.
  3. The increase can’t be more than the provincial rent guideline for that year, unless the landlord gets approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board. For 2019, the guideline is 1.8%.

It’s the last rule that’s now been taken off most new rental units. This means that those units are exempt from the rent guideline.

Which rental units are no longer covered by the rent guideline?

The new exemption applies to many units created or first rented after November 15, 2018. That was the date the government announced this change.

The new law says that the following types of units are exempt from the rent guideline:

  • units in newly occupied buildings
  • units in newly occupied additions
  • new units in houses

Newly occupied buildings

If a building had no one living in it on or before November 15, 2018, all the units in it are exempt.

For example, this would apply if a building had only commercial tenants, such as a store or factory, before November 15, 2018. As long as the first people to live there moved in after November 15, all of the units people live in are exempt from the rent guideline.

Newly occupied additions

These are units in a new section that’s added on to a building, if this addition had no one living in it on or before November 15, 2018.

For example, this could be a rental building built in 1974, with a new addition built in 2018. As long as the first people to live in the addition moved in after November 15, 2018, all of the units in the addition are exempt from the rent guideline.

But units in the original part of building continue to be covered by guideline.

New units in houses

These are self-contained apartments created in a house after November 15, 2018.

It must be a house that didn’t contain more than 2 living units on or before that date. The house can be detached or semi-detached, or a townhouse or row house.

It must also meet certain other conditions.

For example, this could be a house that was built as a single-family home and was later divided into a main floor unit and an upstairs unit. The owner lives upstairs and rents out the main floor.

In March 2019, the owner gets the basement finished and creates an apartment there, with a kitchen, bathroom, and separate entrance. The new basement apartment is exempt from the rent guideline. But the main floor unit is still covered.

What does it mean if a unit is exempt?

Tenants who rent these units no longer have any legal protection against large rent increases.

At the end of their first year, and every year after that, their landlord can raise the rent as much as they want, as long as they give 90 days’ written notice.

It’s important that tenants renting new units know about this. A year after they move in, the rent could go up so much that they can’t afford it. Then their only option may be to move out.

Less protection from unfair evictions

Being exempt from the rent guideline creates another danger for tenants.

A landlord might want to get rid of a tenant for reasons the law does not allow, for example because the tenant is asking for repairs to the apartment.

The landlord can’t use this reason to give the tenant an eviction notice or to ask the Landlord and Tenant Board for an eviction order.

But now the landlord can try to force the tenant to move by raising the rent to a level that they know the tenant can’t afford.

There was one situation in the past when the Board decided that a landlord could not do something like this. But the Board might make a different decision in future cases.

A tenant in this situation might want to get legal advice.

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.

housing

N12: What You Need to Know

Sarah Forsyth | Staff Lawyer

Has your landlord asked you to move out of your rental unit because the landlord’s family member wants to move in?

Here is what you need to know.

Most tenancies are protected by the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. Just because your landlord says you have to leave, does not mean you need to move out. The Landlord and Tenant Board is the body that decides whether or not tenancies end.

The N12 Notice

To ask you to leave so a family member can move in, your landlord must serve you with a “Notice to End your Tenancy Because the Landlord, a Purchaser or a Family Member Requires the Rental Unit”. This is also called an N12 Notice.

The landlord can only use this notice for specific, close family members. It cannot be used for extended family. The N12 can be used for:

  • The landlord
  • The landlord’s spouse
  • The landlord’s child
  • The landlord’s parent

The Rules

The N12 Notice must follow certain rules. If the rules are not followed, the N12 Notice could be void and the landlord may have to start over.

If you receive an N12 Notice, check for the following:

  • There must be 60 days between the date the landlord gives you the N12 Notice and the termination date
  • The termination date must be on the last day of a rental period. This means that if you pay rent on the first of each month, the termination date must be the last day of the month
  • Your rental unit must be listed properly
  • All tenants must be named

What Happens Next?

You do not have to move out by the termination date. If the landlord wants you to leave, it may file an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board and ask for a hearing. At the hearing, the Board will decide whether or not to issue an order evicting the tenant.

At the Hearing

A landlord has up until the day of the hearing to produce an affidavit from the family member moving in. The affidavit should explain:

  • The reason the family member wants to move in
  • That the family member wants to live in the unit for at least one year

A landlord must also provide the tenant with a cheque for one month’s rent by the termination date on the N12 Notice at the latest.

What if I Do Not Believe the N12 is Truthful?

A landlord must give an N12 Notice in “good faith.” This means that the family member identified on the N12 must genuinely intend to move into the rental unit for at least one year.

If you do not believe this to be true, you may allege that the N12 Notice was given in “bad faith” at the hearing. You must be prepared to bring evidence with you that proves your suspicions.

Possible examples of evidence showing bad faith:

  • Your landlord recently tried to illegally increase your rent
  • Your landlord told you or someone else that the notice is not genuine

After the Hearing – What if I am Evicted?

If the Board orders that the tenants must vacate the rental unit, they must do so by the date ordered. If the tenants do not vacate by that date, the landlord may ask the Sheriff to enforce the Board’s order by changing the locks to the unit.

Tenants should keep an eye on the rental unit for one year after the date they vacate. If the tenant learns that the family member either never moved into the rental unit, or lived there only for a short period of time, the tenant may bring an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board and request compensation. Possible remedies include:

  • The difference in rent for one year, if the tenant’s new rental unit has a higher rent
  • Costs of moving expenses

If you have questions, receive an N12 Notice, or other notice, you are welcome to contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic for assistance.