Over the past decade, more renters are forming unions and associations to take collective action and ask for change, such as the York South-Weston Tenant Union in Toronto. This should not surprise anyone. Renters are being pushed to a breaking point. The days of renting being an affordable option for housing are over, as a majority of renters across Ontario struggle to meet their basic needs.
This is the consequence of housing policies that prioritize landlords and real estate investment over affordability for renters. The intensified financialization of housing means average asking rents jump substantially each year (increasing 10% to 35% this year compared to 2022) and have reached prices that are completely beyond what renters can afford. A lack of meaningful rent control enables landlords to squeeze every last dollar from renters that they can. Sometimes this looks like: filing successive Above Guideline Rent Increases; or large annual rent increases in non-rent controlled units, or sometimes it is the use of bad faith N12 or false N13 notices.
The tactics may vary, depending on the landlord, but the result is the same: renters are squeezed while landlords rake in record profits.
Fixed incomes and working wages have not kept pace with the cost of housing. It is especially difficult for Ontarians receiving social assistance. They are getting a mere $556 per month from ODSP or $390 from Ontario Works to pay for their housing. Yet, in order to afford an average two bedroom rental in Toronto, one must earn $40 per hour. As it stands, a renter would have to work over 100 hours a week on minimum wage just to live in Toronto.
With such extreme pressures, where can renters turn for help? The only body authorized to hear disputes between landlords and tenants is the Landlord and Tenant Board (“LTB”). However, renters have been sounding the alarm for years that they cannot access a fair hearing before the LTB. This was confirmed by the recent Ombudsman’s report, which found that the LTB was short changing renters by not allocating enough time to hear their applications. The LTB also prioritized landlord applications to the point where the backlog of unresolved tenant applications grew to almost 10,000, with some applications dating back to 2017. The Ombudsman called this “unconscionable.”
It is clear that renters cannot rely on institutions or the government for substantive help. We recognize and commend all renters who are exercising their rights to form tenant unions and associations as a response to landlords’ relentless pursuit of profit. Collective action is a critical way for renters to call attention to their struggle and push for meaningful change.
The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario stands in solidarity with these renters, the tenant unions, and tenant associations. We strongly encourage landlords to listen and negotiate fairly with their renters to come to an agreement that keeps people in their homes.Download