By: Christian Carlo D’Ambrosi
Initial publication date: August 23rd, 2020
It goes without saying that the last few months have been tough on renters. After all, not only have many tenants had to deal with the loss of a job, but they have also had to negotiate with landlords who have become increasingly cash-strapped due to the economic situation at hand. And while many people’s rents are currently frozen due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Ford government’s Bill 184 is set to assist landlords by throwing many struggling renters out of their homes and onto the streets. So today, we’re going to be delving into what Bill 184 is, how it will negatively affect renters, why it is being proposed, and what you can do to prevent it from passing.
Bill 184, which is ironically titled as the “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Communities Housing Act, 2020”, is a piece of legislation being proposed to amend the current Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (also known as the RTA). The bill proposes several changes in how landlords interact with their tenants, however two in particular are of a distinct disadvantage to renters.
The first and most blatantly unjust addition is the stipulation that landlords can now offer draconian rent repayment plans outside of the influence of the Landlord and Tenant Board (or LTB). In essence, this means that if a tenant falls behind on rent, a landlord can offer them a rent repayment plan with whatever terms they desire, no matter how unfair the conditions may be. If the tenant refuses this offer or alternatively accepts and then falls short even once, then the tenant has the right to evict them without any questions being asked. To top this off, if the tenant is unsatisfied and then wants to report their situation to the LTB, they must navigate the LTB’s complex bureaucratic structure, which many vulnerable renters simply are not able to do without expensive legal counselling.
The second and perhaps most sinister proposed amendment is the increased paperwork a tenant must file if they do not pay rent due to extenuating circumstances. As of now, if a tenant is facing eviction, they have the right to verbally attest at their LTB eviction hearing to major maintenance or harassment issues that are making them unable or unwilling to pay their landlord their rent. Yet, under Bill 184, this testimony can now only be given if a written notice of it is filed prior to the hearing. Unsurprisingly, this requirement of increased paperwork disproportionately affects the most vulnerable of tenants, as it is precisely those who are facing abuse or miserable conditions that are the least likely to either know or have the ability to file this paper work. And while this may make evictions swifter and let many landlords off the hook for acting illegally, it will inevitably leave many vulnerable tenants on the streets.
Of course, the Ford government does have their justifications as to why ignoring tenant rights should be enshrined in the law. As reported by Toronto-Centre MPP Suze Morrison, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark has admitted that the legislation is primarily being implemented to help expedite the number of cases being heard by the LTB, which at the moment is experiencing severe backlogs. This rent repurpose plans being authorized within Bill 184 will also be instrumental in reducing future LTB cases, as many vulnerable tenants will settle for unfavorable terms outside of the LTB rather than appeal to the LTB itself. As a result, by effectively reducing tenant rights and making it easier for landlords to carry out evictions, the Ford government is ensuring that the LTB can experience some stress relief, and instead leave Toronto’s homeless shelters and community supports to deal with the surplus of evicted people. If that won’t move Ontario forward, we don’t know what will!
However, there is still hope. This is because Bill 184 has not yet been passed, for as of July 8th of 2020, it has still only gone through a Second Reading at the Ontario Legislature. Thus, if you’d like to get your voice heard and speak out against the issue, there are some great avenues out there in order for you to do so. The first is to sign this petition, which will be given to provincial authorities in order to help influence the stoppage of Bill 184. You can also opt to write to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark himself, who can be contacted at email@example.com. As a final measure, you can report any new protests or actions against Bill 184 on this website, and you can rest assured that we will act promptly in order to relay this information to the public via our platform! After all, given that this piece of legislation is set to affect about 47% of tenants in Toronto alone, it only takes one voice to potentially enact a much larger chain reaction!