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The London Free Press : Landlords push back as city hall mulls ‘renoviction’ bylaw - ACORN Canada

The London Free Press : Landlords push back as city hall mulls ‘renoviction’ bylaw

Posted March 18, 2024

London city hall is one step closer to implementing municipal rules to curb renovictions, taking a page from other cities as it prepares to present a draft bylaw later this spring.

The new bylaw to reduce or prevent renovictions – the practice of forcing renters out of their units for major repairs, then making it infeasible to return due to long delays or jacked-up rents – is expected to be tabled to politicians some time between April and June and could include a municipal licensing requirement for landlords pursuing that particular type of eviction.
In a report to council’s community and protective services committee, city staff said the municipal rule will be guided by similar bylaws in Hamilton and Burnaby and New Westminster, B.C.

“This is key to mitigating the housing crisis on a municipal level,” said Jordan Smith, chair of the Stoneybrook-Carling chapter of ACORN, a national tenants advocacy group.

“We’ve been screaming from the rooftops for years that there are viable tools that we can use to mitigate this. These are the tools and the city is actively working to put them in place.”

Under provincial law, landlords can legally require vacant possession of a unit to complete necessary repairs and upgrades. To do this, they serve eviction notices on the tenants.

Tenants given N13 evictions, a notice to end the tenancy for renovations, have the right to return to their units at the original rent. But critics allege these evictions can be used by unscrupulous landlords to terminate the leases of long-term tenants with no other place to go to raise rents for future ones.

Taking its cues from Hamilton, the new London bylaw could require landlords using an N13 eviction notice to get a licence from city hall. The licences would create a formal, transparent line of communication between tenants seeking to reoccupy the unit and landlords, the staff report said.

Council’s community and protective services committee had asked city staff in January to report back with options to reduce or prevent renovictions, including introducing new bylaws, policies and programs.

The update from city staff will be presented to politicians on Monday.

“The intent of any potential bylaw would not be to stop necessary maintenance and upgrades to the existing rental housing stock,” the staff report said.

“The intent would be to help protect tenants from bad faith renovictions which have the consequence of displacing people and furthering the housing affordability crisis.”

While Smith applauds the prospect of more oversight of renovation-related evictions by bylaw officials and enforcement against landlords who break the rules, the plan has already attracted criticism from one major London landlord group.

In a letter to the committee responding to the city hall staff update, the London Property Management Association said a bylaw that imposes a licensing requirement on landlords pursuing N13 evictions conflicts with Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act and is beyond the scope of city hall’s power.
“It is our opinion that the licensing provisions proposed by the amendments to the bylaw are ultra vires the legal authority of the municipality and are therefore illegal and unenforceable,” the group writes in a letter to politicians, adding any cost of the program forced on landlords is likely to trickle down to tenants.

“Municipal regulation of so-called ‘renovictions’ would be extremely complicated and would have unintended consequences inevitably adding substantial and unnecessary costs to housing.”

Article by Jennifer Bieman for The London Free Press