Ontario’s Bill 184, dubbed the “Eviction Bill” by tenants, received Royal Assent. The Bill is a collection of pro-landlord amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA) that will increase housing insecurity in Ontario, drive up rents and hasten the loss of affordable housing units.
While tenants and tenant advocates fought hard to stop Bill 184, these efforts were ignored by the Progressive Conservative government. More troublesome is that the expedited passing of Bill 184 coincides with the lifting of the eviction moratorium at the end of July and re-opening of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) in August. This means that evictions, and their enforcement, will resume in August while the pandemic still poses a threat to the health of Ontarians.
Here are 5 changes to the law that tenants should know.
Fast-tracked eviction via repayment agreements
Bill 184 changes the RTA provisions regarding repayment agreements made outside of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Now, a landlord can give a tenant (without prior consent) a take-it-or-leave-it repayment plan, with terms that are unaffordable for the tenant, and includes a section 78 clause that permits the landlord to seek an eviction order (‘ex parte’) without a hearing or notice if the tenant breaches the agreement. If a tenant receives an eviction order in the mail, they have 10 days to file a Motion to Set Aside the eviction order and request a hearing at the LTB to explain their circumstances.
Tenants who are offered repayment plans by their landlords should proceed with caution. Tenants should seek advice from their legal clinic or Tenant Duty Counsel. They must carefully read and understand every term and its consequences. A tenant is not required to sign anything they do not understand or cannot afford. Tenants also have the right to present their own repayment plan to the landlord with terms they are confident they can meet on their income. If the landlord and tenant cannot agree on a reasonable repayment plan, the matter will be heard at the LTB. However, at the hearing, the adjudicator will consider whether the landlord offered the tenant a repayment plan in their decision. A tenant should explain why they felt it was not fair or feasible for them to sign it.
Landlords can bring former tenants to the LTB
Landlords now have 12 months after a tenant vacates the unit to bring a former tenant to the LTB, instead of Small Claims Court. While the Small Claims Court has robust rules on serving former tenants legal documents to ensure they are aware of the legal proceeding against them, the Board entrusts the landlord to notify the tenant of the application and hearing. In other words, a former tenant may not know there is a proceeding against them at the LTB and may fail to attend the hearing, which results in an Order against them that the landlord can proceed to enforce. If a former tenant receives an Order against them, they should seek legal assistance and file a Request for Review with the Board.
Tenants must give advance notice to raise a s.82 defence at their arrears hearing
Section 82 of the RTA provides tenants with the right to talk about problems with their unit at an arrears hearing, which may have contributed to the tenant falling into rent arrears or may reduce the amount of the arrears owed by the tenant. The most common issue raised by tenants is their landlord has not done necessary repairs. Tenants are now required to provide advance written notice to their landlord to inform them of the tenant issues they plan to raise at the hearing. Tenants who do not provide notice will need to explain to the Board why they failed to provide the landlord with advance written notice of their issues. If the LTB bars the tenant from raising their issues at the hearing, a tenant would have to file their own tenant application against the landlord if they wanted to raise these issues.
The new changes to the law require tenants to be legally savvy or have legal representation to plan their arguments well in advance of their hearing. As ACTO’s latest report shows, almost all tenants did not have representation at their hearing (less than 3% of tenants did) in comparison to nearly 80% of landlords who attended their hearing with representation. Most tenants are not familiar with legal processes nor do they have the experience or education to gather data, make legal arguments and represent themselves in a legal proceeding.
Illegal rent increases become legal after 12 months
Bill 184 allows for an illegal rent increase to be deemed legal if the tenant does not challenge it within 12 months of the increase. This means if the tenant learns that their rent increase was illegal after the 12 months of paying that rent amount, they are no longer able to dispute the increase because the rent is deemed to be legal. Tenants should carefully read their Notice of Rent Increase. The landlord must give tenants 90 days notice before the rent increase takes effect. Tenants in rent regulated units should look up the annual rent guideline and confirm the landlord calculated the rent increase correctly. If the notice is incorrect a tenant does not have to pay the rent increase. If a tenant discovers an error after starting to pay the new rent amount, they can bring an application to the LTB to have the funds returned.
Increased compensation, disclosure, fines for no-fault evictions
Rather than dealing with the main driver behind bad faith evictions – vacancy decontrol – Bill 184 added additional requirements and remedies to the no-fault eviction provisions in the RTA.
Landlords must include their affidavits with their application for eviction for landlord’s own use and purchaser’s own use. They must also disclose whether they have filed any no-fault eviction notices in the past two years. Like tenants of no-fault evictions, tenants living in a building of less than five units that is being renovated or demolished, and tenants evicted for purchaser’s own use, are also entitled to receive one month rent compensation, which the landlord must pay before the termination date. If these requirements are not met the notice is void.
Where a tenant successfully brings a bad faith application against their landlord, the LTB can order the landlord to pay the tenant a new remedy called “general compensation” of an amount not exceeding 12 months’ rent – this is in addition to other remedies available to the tenant such as the 12 month “rent differential” amount. In addition, the limitation period for the denial of a tenant’s right of first refusal to return to their renovated unit has been extended to two years after the tenant vacated the unit. Fines for illegal evictions have been raised to $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation.
Resources to support tenants
By passing Bill 184, the provincial government decided to address long-standing concerns with the LTB by weakening tenants’ rights rather than fixing delays at the Board – a problem the Ford government exacerbated by delaying the appointment of qualified adjudicators.
In this new climate, it is vital that tenants learn about their legal rights, form tenant associations to raise their collective voices, and seek legal supports from their local legal clinics and other legal services that provide pro-bono advice and information.
Check out our tenant tip sheets to help you with your applications and hearings.