In our August 11, 2020 article, we previously wrote about the enforcement of residential evictions in Ontario, which were temporarily suspended at the outset of the pandemic. Resumption of residential evictions began on August 4, 2020. At the time that the temporary freeze on evictions came into effect, there were approximately 3,000 evictions in the City of Toronto (the “City”) that had been placed on hold. As enforcement of these back-logged evictions proceeds, there are serious concerns that mass evictions will occur, resulting in a wave of increased homelessness that the City must handle.
The City is Taking the Province to Court Over Bill 184
Another change that has arisen in the wake of the pandemic, affecting both landlords and tenants, is the Province of Ontario’s (the “Province”) enacting of Bill 184, which introduced a number of changes to the Residential Tenancy Act (the “RTA”). One significant effect of Bill 184 is that it took away the right that tenants once had to raise issues they may have with their landlord in order to argue for a rent reduction during eviction proceedings at the Landlord Tenant Board (the “LTB”), if they have not previously provided the landlord with notice of these issues. The City of Toronto voted to start a court proceeding against the Province of Ontario due to many concerns, including the aforementioned.
Another aspect of Bill 184 that many, including the City, are concerned about relates to Bill 184’s effect on tenants who enter into and default on repayment plans with their landlord. Prior to Bill 184’s introduction, all disputes between landlords and tenants over evictions and rental arrears were required to be heard by the LTB. In some cases, hearings of these disputes would result in the LTB ordering a repayment plan to be followed. Bill 184 allows landlords to introduce their own repayment plan to tenants and, if the tenant agrees to it, have it approved by Court Order in LTB. If a tenant defaults on such a repayment plan, a landlord may now file an application with the LTB and supporting affidavit to have the tenant evicted, without providing the tenant with a copy and allowing the tenant to make submissions at a hearing. The City has taken the position that the tenant should be provided notice and an opportunity to respond.
For these reasons, and because of the potential that these changes will greatly increase the number of evicted and homeless residents of the City, the City is challenging the legality of Bill 184 in Court. Those interested in further discussion of the controversy surrounding the introduction of Bill 184, can refer to our July 14, 2020 article or can view a video clip of me discussing the topic on national television in August.
The Province Intends to Freeze Residential Rents
Shortly after the City announced its intention to challenge the Province in Court, the Province announced that it intends to introduce legislation this fall that will freeze most residential rents, so that most families in Ontario will not experience a rent increase through 2021.
A rent freeze, or any other form of rent control in Ontario, does not apply to rental units that are vacant. As such, landlords are permitted to raise the rent by as much as they like between one tenant’s leaving and a new tenant moving in. This raises a concern that a rent freeze will provide landlords with a greater incentive to evict current tenants so that they can raise their rent before re-leasing their units.
The City has already had to lease approximately 2,000 hotel rooms to accommodate homeless residence, due to the inability to enforce proper physical distancing in the City’s existing shelter network. It is not clear at this point whether the City would be equipped to handle a significant increase in the number of homeless residents, who would be displaced due to evictions. As such, it will be very interesting to see what the impact of the Province’s proposed rent freeze will be and whether it will lead to another legal challenge from the City.
Tanya Walker obtained her law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University in 2005 and her Honours Bachelor of Commerce with a minor in Economics from McMaster University in 2002. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006 and created Walker Law a litigation law firm in 2010. Tanya is currently serving a term as Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario; elected by her peers as not only the first Black elected female Bencher from Toronto, in the 220-year history of the Law Society, but also as one of the youngest sitting Benchers.
Tanya is a frequent speaker on legal issues to the Toronto Community and regularly appears on the CTV Show, Your Morning as a legal expert. She has also been named in the 2017 and 2018 Lexpert Guides as one of the Leading Lawyers to Watch in Corporate/Commercial Litigation and is also the recipient of the 2018 Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year Award.