The Ontario government’s May 27 decision to revive their makeover of landlord-tenant law, in the middle of the pandemic, was a nasty surprise for the tenants of Ontario. We need legislation that addresses the housing crisis and provides a clear plan to protect tenant homes when this pandemic crisis subsides. Instead, our government is quickly pushing Bill 184 “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community” that will allow tenants to be displaced and driven deeper into debt – at a minimal cost to the landlord. Similar to the decision to ignore the crisis in long-term care, this is an extremely short-sighted approach to a long-ignored and pressing social problem.
The only tenant protection in this Bill is in the title. Making landlords put a few more dollars on the table when they decide to turf good, rent-paying tenants is not protection. Fiddling with the rules at the Landlord and Tenant Board to make it easier to be a landlord is not protection. Adding a massive caseload of debt collection to the Landlord and Tenant Board’s workload is not protection. These proposals would only make tenants more insecure. Bill 184 threatens whatever justice the Landlord and Tenant Board has been able to provide.
The Premier and the Housing Minister do not need to be reminded that we are in the middle of a health and social crisis. But they do need to be reminded that governments can act in the public interest and provide real protections to vulnerable people. They must re-write this Bill so it addresses the situation now – the pandemic crisis and the recessionary forces that will follow post-pandemic recovery. We urge the government to protect tenants. Here’s how they can do that:
- Continue to restrict evictions to urgent cases where public safety is at stake.
- Restrict rent increases to maintain current rents, which already are unaffordable for nearly half of Ontario’s tenants.
- Eliminate rent increases in newer units that are exempt from rent regulation as of November 2018.
- Limit rent gouging by landlords by restricting rent increases between tenancies.
- Ensure that the Landlord and Tenant Board’s rules make ongoing preservation of homes the object of the dispute resolution processes.
Protecting public health must take priority over protecting the financial wealth of property owners. Government programs are available to support businesses and can be expanded to help small landlords acting in good faith. Vulnerable tenants cannot afford to provide that support. Putting tenants in jeopardy of homelessness and increased poverty will put the lives of all Ontarians at risk.
We call on the government to leave the past behind. Withdraw the proposed changes in Bill 184 to the Residential Tenancies Act. Write new rules that address the critical issues of today and tomorrow.