Posted October 15, 2020
More than 550 Hamilton landlords have applied to evict tenants over unpaid rent since March — spurring calls for renewed pandemic protection for renters.
The province enacted a COVID-inspired moratorium on evictions earlier this year in recognition of pandemic tenant hardships, particularly during a lockdown that cut off income for many residents.
But that moratorium ended in August, allowing the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board to start dealing with a backlog of 323 Hamilton eviction applications over unpaid rent dating back to March 17. Since August, another 230 applications linked to Hamilton addresses have come in.
Tenants have been “set up to fail” by the provincial government during COVID, said Stephanie Cox, a lawyer with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
Cox said more clients are reporting rent arrears “directly related to a loss of employment” during COVID. Changing federal financial pandemic supports and the looming threat of another lockdown does not help. “We anticipate another influx of homelessness,” she said.
“They need to bring back the moratorium instead of making it easier to evict people,” said Jonathan Lopez, a local organizer with tenant advocacy group ACORN.
He pointed to controversial changes introduced in Bill 184 — dubbed the “easy-evictions law” by critics — that allow evictions without a tribunal hearing if tenants fall behind on rent repayment plans negotiated privately with landlords.
“So many people are living in a precarious position (during COVID). The province should be helping them, not helping push them out,” he said.
It’s hard to say how many Hamilton tenants are falling behind on rent. But the city’s largest social housing agency, CityHousing Hamilton, is reporting 26 per cent of tenants are in arrears.
CEO Tom Hunter told a recent board meeting the agency is pursuing some tenant repayment plans through the Landlord and Tenant Board, but is also trying to be “respectful, during these difficult times, of individuals’ ability to pay.”
The board told The Spectator it has not received any CityHousing Hamilton applications to evict tenants over unpaid rent during COVID.
Article by Matthew Van Dongen for the Hamilton Spectator