Over the past few weeks, hundreds have taken to the streets of Toronto to protest against a new piece of provincial legislation, called the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act or Bill 184, that many experts fear will allow landlords to evict tenants with ease and cause “increased homelessness” across Ontario. Also known as the “Mass Eviction Bill” by its opponents, the new amendment to the 2006 Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) has become a hot topic of discussion between tenants and landlords as the real effect of this bill remain in dispute over its lack of clarity.
The main opposition to the passing of Bill 184 is the tenant community. Many tenant rights activist groups are of the belief that this bill takes aim at individuals who have suffered heavily from the pandemic, the working class. This new piece of legislation has been perceived as giving landlords the power to pressure tenants to move out of a unit without any oversight by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Further, tenants are even more concerned that the bill fails to include a way for tenants to legally oppose the eviction. Ultimately, those who oppose the bill, see it as a collection of landlord favouring amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act that look to displace tenants.
One of the main focus of this bill is to deal with the backlog at the LTB by forcing tenants and landlords to cooperate. Bill 184 does provide some benefit to landlords; however, this is only because residential landlords are among the most vulnerable people affected by the pandemic and many are in need of immediate relief.
Many landlords have tenants who can no longer make rental payments. In such cases, landlords are forced to carry the expense, resulting in thousands of dollars lost every month. Ultimately, as a result of the unaffordable expense of affording multiple homes, these landlords are forced to offload real estate they can no longer afford to pay off outstanding mortgage payments. Bill 184 does a decent job of providing minimal liberation by allowing landlords to act more hastily and less bureaucratically.
Below we have outlined in more detail the changes that can be expected from Bill 184 that most affect landlords:
Under the current compensation scheme for landlords in the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords have the power to apply to the LTB to seek compensation for rental arrears from are tenants who overhold a unit. Overholding means tenants who have occupied a unit for longer than agreed upon. Landlords can also claim for damage caused to a rental unit where a tenant remains in possession of the rental unit beyond the expiry of the lease.
Bill 184 expands this same power to allow landlords to make a claim to the LTB even after the tenant has vacated the unit. Provided that the claim is made within 12 months of the date the tenant vacates the unit, landlords can receive full compensation. Bill 184 further proposes that landlords are permitted to apply to the LTB to claim compensation (up to 12 months after the tenant has vacated the unit) from a tenant where the tenant interferes with another tenant’s ability to enjoy their rental unit and from a tenant who has not paid utilities.
In such cases, what was once intended to be a profitable investment for a landlord, would then have become a financial nightmare. This amendment allows landlords to retrospectively claim for lost rent or unpaid utilities suffered by a landlord including compensation for not being able to have new renters occupy the unit.
Conclusively, landlords who have lost rental income, utilities payments, or damages from overstaying tenants can now seek compensation even after the tenant has left the unit.
According to the Residential Tenancy Act, a tenant (past or present) can file an order with the Landlord Tenant Board requiring that a landlord repay a tenant any money the landlord may have collected as a result of an improper rent increase. This means where a landlord increases the rent without serving the appropriate notice of a rent increase or increasing the rent above the appropriate amount set out by the Ontario Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs in the respective guidelines. This order must be filed within 12 months of the date of the illegal rent payment.
Bill 184 adds to the current laws by stating that, where a tenant has already paid the improperly increased rent amount for a minimum of 12 consecutive months, then a tenant cannot seek reimbursement for such an improper rent increase. This new change applies so long as the tenant did not make an application to the LTB challenging the validity of that rental increase within one year from the first charge was made.
Ultimately, landlords and prospective lenders and purchasers are given peace of mind. Rent payment amounts are no longer subject to challenge by any tenant where they have consistently been paid for a minimum of one year.
Under the current state of the law, the Landlord and Tenant Board can conclude that a landlord has acted in “bad faith” when terminating a tenancy. This includes cases where a tenancy is unfairly terminated for a landlord’s personal use, purchaser’s personal use, or for demolition, conversion or substantial renovations to the unit. Under these circumstances, a landlord can be ordered to make payment to the tenant. Pre-Bill 184, landlords could be ordered to compensate a tenant for any portion of increased rent that the former tenant has incurred or will incur from moving into a new unit for a one-year period after vacating the previous rental unit. Landlords could also be forced to pay for reasonable expenses incurred by the tenant including moving and storage. Finally, a landlord can receive an additional administrative fine of up to $35,000.
Bill 184 increases the maximum potential penalty that a landlord can suffer when acts are carried out in bad faith. This is because the bill looks to allow landlords more power to deal with removing a tenant. However, the LTB will now have the discretion to force the landlord to compensate the wronged tenant for a maximum of 12 months’ worth of missed rent where they are found to have acted in “bad faith”.
In relation to corporations, Bill 184 looks to increase the maximum penalty that can be imposed on corporations that are found liable for breaches under the Residential Tenancies Act. These fines will be increased from a maximum of $100,000 to $250,000.
Therefore, this increase in punishment that a landlord may suffer serves the needs of tenants as it acts as a deterrent for landlords acting unfairly. Landlords should be cautious as the new regulations subject landlords to paying a much heftier sum than what was previously imposed on landlords. This is in addition to the administrative fine that landlords may be subject to paying.
When landlords apply to terminate a tenancy agreement, Bill 184 will require a landlord to attach a sworn affidavit outlining and explaining the reasons in detail for the termination to the LTB. This means declaring reasons for termination including, a landlord wanting to use the unit for personal use, or planned demolition, conversion or renovations to the rental unit. Additionally, the landlord is required to indicate in the affidavit whether he or she has served any notice of termination in respect of the same or another rental unit, within 2 years prior to filing the present application.
With the new addition to the Residential Tenancies Act 2006, the LTB will be encouraged to take a landlord’s history of serving termination into account when concluding whether or not the landlord has acted in good faith. The amount of previous termination requests filed by a landlord will act as an important indicator as to whether landlords truly have sufficient and substantial reason to end a tenancy.
The effect of deterring landlords from ending lease agreements and terminating tenancies for disingenuous reasons is to the benefit of tenants. The LTB will now have access to additional evidence to use in favour of tenants.
This new amendment coupled with the increased fines means landlords are to be more cautious when ending tenancies. Where ending the tenancy does not align with the affidavit or is found to serve another purpose, landlords will be subject to hefty fines for acting in “bad faith”
One of the biggest points of contention between the landlord and tenant communities is the proposed changes to the way landlords can address the issue of tenants not paying rent.
Currently, disputes between landlords and tenants over rent arrears can only be addressed by the LTB. This has contributed to the extreme backlog of cases in the LTB. Pre- pandemic, eviction hearings and cases in the LTB could take an average of 3 months to be heard.
Bill 184 aims to provide some relief, or at the very least not make the situation at the LTB worse. It allows disputes over rent between tenants and landlords to be negotiated without LTB intervention. Landlords can bypass the LTB and are encouraged to offer a repayment plan directly to tenants, something that was originally the responsibility of the LTB. For this repayment plan to be in good faith, it should be formulated following some form of discussion and negotiation with the tenant as, in theory, the plan is to the benefit of both parties. Additionally, this new change will allow landlords to claim for lost rent and remove tenants who have been withholding payment retroactively. Where the tenant refuses the repayment plan, or accepts and fails to uphold it, this constitutes sufficient grounds for the landlord to evict the tenant.
Landlords and tenants are forced to work together to reach a solution where the landlord can expect some percentage of rent to be paid regularly, while also taking into account the difficulties that a tenant may be having to repay the rent.
The introduction of increased compensation for tenants for evictions done in “bad faith” as discussed above, restrict landlords from imposing unfair repayment plans on tenants. Having to compensate a tenant for up to 12 months’ worth of missed rent in Ontario will cost the average residential landlord substantial financial hardship. Tenants are also given the right to appeal to the LTB where they believe their repayment plan or eviction was handled unfairly. The alternative to Bill 184, which is the current state of affairs, is for landlords to have to continue to shoulder the burden of tenants who continue to not pay rent.
Conclusively, Bill 184 allows landlords to act with more urgency than being forced to wait in a three-month long line at the LTB. However, this solution does not protect landlords from having to shoulder thousands of dollars’ worth of lost rent as the repayment plan must be given a fair chance to work before steps can be taken to remove the tenant.
What this bill means for tenants and landlords is that, there is to be expected a drastic change to the Residential Tenancies Act that aims to force landlords and tenants to communicate, compromise and work together.
While this new amendment to the RTA looks to provide relief for the LTB, the truth of the state of affairs at the LTB is that they face backlog and a lack of organisation that this bill fails to address. There are still many steps in between tenants not paying rent and a tenant being evicted including negotiating a payment plan and providing the tenants a chance to pay out on their repayment plan. These new amendments do not protect the average landlord from suffering thousands of dollars, and several months’ worth of missed rent. Additionally, claims for damage (on top of lost rent), brough against a tenant can still be expected to eat up landlord time and money because of the ongoing pandemic.
As a result of the increased risk that comes with being a renter, many landlords are turning to insurance options such as SingleKey to guarantee rental income and protect landlords from delinquent tenants. The SingleKey Rent Guarantee provides landlords peace of mind knowing that they will are protected against tenants who do not pay the rent and who may damage their property.