Ontario has moved ahead with the controversial Bill 184 despite opposition from tenant advocates claiming it will lead to mass evictions. Since the state of emergency in Ontario began, landlords have been banned from evicting non-paying tenants. The new law will require tenants owing money to pay back their landlords in a scheduled repayment plan.
“We know tenants and landlords have struggled during COVID-19, and some households may be facing eviction due to unpaid rent during this crisis,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “By making these changes we are trying to keep people in their homes, and at the same time, helping landlords receive payment through a mutual repayment agreement. It’s a better approach, especially during these difficult times.”
Other changes to the legislation include:
• Requiring tenant compensation of one month’s rent for “no fault” evictions;
• Allowing the Landlord and Tenant Board to order up to 12 months’ rent in compensation for eviction notices issued in bad faith or where the landlord does not allow the tenant to move back in after renovations or repairs;
• Doubling the maximum fine amounts for offences under the Act to $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation.
According to the release, the changes will also “modernize and streamline” the dispute resolution processes at the Landlord and Tenant Board and encourage the use of alternatives to formal hearings to resolve certain issues and encourage negotiated settlements. The Landlord and Tenant Board must now consider whether a landlord tried to negotiate a repayment agreement with a tenant before it can issue an eviction order for non-payment of rent related to COVID-19. Certain disputes, such as those related to unpaid utility bills, will shift from Small Claims Court to the Board.
In addition, the government has made changes to the Housing Services Act, 2011, in what it calls “an effort to help maintain the existing community housing supply.” Amendments will give housing providers with expiring operating agreements and mortgages ways to remain in the community housing system through a new service agreement with service managers. It will also encourage existing and new housing providers to offer community housing.
Despite these efforts, tenant advocates concerned about vulnerable tenants continue to oppose the bill and remain active in their opposition.