Last week, the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Policy heard from tenants, tenant advocates, landlords and landlord lobbyists on the Ontario government’s proposed Bill 184, Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Communities Housing Act. The hearings had a unanimous message from tenants – the provisions of Bill 184 will not protect them or their communities.
The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario presented our serious concerns to the Committee and provided them with a detailed written submission that outlines the problems with Bill 184. Our Open Letter, Bill 184: Wrong Bill, Wrong Time, was signed by many organizations across the province that urged the government to scrap Bill 184 and instead adopt 5 alternative recommendations that would truly protect tenants.
Many tenants, tenant organizations and legal clinics presented to the Committee last week. Tenants provided compelling testimony of their experiences as low-income renters and many shared their experience of losing their homes to bad faith evictions. Legal clinics and non-profit organizations that serve tenants spoke on the state of housing insecurity in their communities, the skyrocketing of rents and the lack of legal protections for tenants.
The message from tenants and advocates was overwhelmingly clear: contrary to its title, Bill 184 does little to protect tenants from no-fault evictions and does not help tenants to stay housed. Instead, the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) proposed by Bill 184 will simply make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. In effect, the government is trying to fix the delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) by removing tenant rights rather than addressing problems with the LTB.
Of particular concern, tenants feared that they would be pressured by their landlord to sign repayment plans they cannot afford, and include a clause (s.78 of the RTA) that permits a landlord to seek an eviction order without a hearing if they faltered. In addition, tenants opposed the changes to their right to raise other issues at their rent arrear hearings (such as a landlord’s failure to do repairs). Many were deeply concerned about the government’s change to the law that downgrades a landlord’s duty to provide proper notice of rent increases to their tenant.
All tenants told the committee that one month compensation, additional disclosure requirement and fines will not stop bad faith evictions. They all called on the government to eliminate the practice of rent gouging by landlords by removing vacancy decontrol and closing the November 2018 rent control loophole.
Sadly, the recommendations made by tenants and advocates were rejected by the Progressive Conservative members that sit on the Social Policy Committee. Their response was to pass new amendments to the Bill that will speed up the new eviction rules and force landlords and tenants into some kind of mediation process whether they want it or not.
For its part, the NDP Opposition moved many of the amendments that tenants were looking for. These included putting all units back under rent control even if the tenants in the unit have changed; and directing the LTB to refuse evictions where households have been hurt by the pandemic. Each of these amendments was voted down by the Conservative majority.
The Bill has now been referred to the full Legislature for the third reading debate which is the last step before it becomes law. This is our last chance to put the pressure on the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It is more important than ever to let him know that Bill 184 will remove tenant protections and will fast track evictions. Please take a moment now to participate in our campaign to scrap Bill 184.