CBC News: Ontario mulls changes to rental rules, prompting concern from tenants groups

Posted April 21, 2016

The Liberal government said its plans to make it easier for landlords to evict problem tenants will lead to more affordable housing, but tenants' rights groups blasted the new proposals, saying they give landlords too much power. 
Kathleen Wynne's government is floating the new proposals as part of its long-term affordable housing strategy update. The suggested changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, contained in an April consultation paper, would allow landlords to evict tenants for smoking in non-smoking units and also let landlords prohibit pets in small buildings where they also live.
The government is also re-examining whether or not the rent increase guideline, which was amended in 2012 to ensure rent can't go up by more than 2.5 per cent per year, is calculated fairly.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin said the government is still in the "getting ideas" phase. The 15 proposals, he said, will mostly help small landlords — something the government hopes will encourage more people to rent out part of their property.
He said many don't want to rent out space because they don't want to deal with problem tenants.
"Small landlords are experiencing difficulties with tenants that they don't want to have as tenants," McMeekin told CBC News.
The government sees secondary units — like apartments in people's homes — as an important form of affordable housing for low-to-moderate income people, it says in the document.
But Geordie Dent, of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, said the government doesn't have any proof this strategy will work and, in fact, it could hurt tenants.
"I'm not really sure why they're doing this stuff or where it's coming from," Dent said.
"A lot of these things seem like landlord giveaways,"
Dent said landlords have been asking for changes similar to the government's proposals for years. He said things like a "blanket ban" on pets in rental units or stricter rules for tenants won't encourage any new rental housing development in the province.
He also raised concerns about the small window of consultation time the government is allowing. The government is seeking input from landlords, tenants and the organizations that represent them, only until this Friday, but Dent's group was only notified of the proposals on the afternoon of April 14.
ACORN worried about evictions  
Donna Borden, a tenant in Toronto and provincial representative for the national anti-poverty group ACORN, said she doesn't believe any of the proposals will provide affordable housing.
Borden said she's worried the changing rules are weighted in favour of landlords. She said she's also concerned it could trigger more evictions.
"When (landlords) evict tenants they can make the rents even higher," she said.
A spokesperson for the Federation of Rental Housing Providers, which represents the owners and managers of residential rental accommodation, said the changes will help renters when it comes to tenant disputes.
Scott Andison said in an email that issues like non-payment of rent can be a "significant burden" to small housing providers and be a "deterrent to get into the rental housing business." 
McMeekin said he doesn't believe the proposals will lead to more evictions.
It's unclear when the government plans to go ahead with any changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. 
Article by Mike Crawley for CBC News