Posted April 22, 2016
Tenant advocates in Toronto say proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act tip the scales in landlords’ favour and could lead to renters being unjustly evicted.
The provincial Liberals are mulling reforms that would allow landlords to more easily evict tenants for smoking or owning pets. Other proposals include changes to how eviction appeals and hearings are handled and a review of rental increase guidelines.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Ted McMeekin’s office says the changes will encourage mom and pop landlords to rent out secondary suites in their homes, thereby increasing supply and affordability.
“We need to do something to give smaller landlords the confidence to get into the market,” said ministry spokesman Mark Cripps.
However, by making it easier for landlords to evict tenants, advocates say the proposed laws could make things less affordable – not more.
“Big landlords will use this as an opportunity to get rid of more people so they can raise the rent in the units they have,” said Donna Borden, a tenant in Toronto and member of the national anti-poverty group ACORN. “The rent will just go up and up and up.”
Borden worried the province could expose tenants to abuse by granting landlords greater powers. ACORN often hears from tenants who threatened with eviction for speaking up about repairs or other maintenance issues, she said.
Geordie Dent with the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations said the province’s list of reforms is similar to requests landlords, including the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO), have been making for years.
Cripps said it’s premature to evaluate the government’s plans, as the changes haven’t even gone through public consultation. He also denied lobbying landlords were behind the reforms.
“Allegations that landlords are driving this process are 100 per cent false,” he said.
One tenant’s story
Gillian Hlinyanszky said she and her husband were threatened with eviction after the bathroom ceiling in their Queen’s Quay apartment collapsed last June and she complained about inadequate fireproofing between units.
She claims her landlord agreed to stay the rent until repairs were made, but the couple has been ordered to pay back rent even though the work was never done. She’s fighting the order through the Landlord and Tenant Board, but said it’s been difficult.
“The law favours the landlord and tenants are treated as guilty until proven innocent,” she said.
Dent said the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act will give tenants like Gillian even less recourse.
“Under the changes they’re making, she would have been thrown out and told she owed thousands of dollars.”
Article by Luke Simcoe for Metro News Toronto