Everything you need to know about the ‘Protecting Renters from Illegal Evictions’ Act

November 13, 2020

UPDATE: Bill 205 did not pass

On Monday, November 16th 2020, Bill 205 the Protecting Renters from Illegal Evictions Act, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by MPP Jessica Bell, will go to 2nd reading in the Ontario Legislature. This Bill targets the growing problem of bad-faith and unlawful evictions in Ontario that are leaving tenants struggling to secure safe, adequate and affordable housing. If passed, Bill 205 has the potential to strengthen protections for tenants facing “no-fault” evictions; expand capacity for tenants, the Landlord and Tenant Board, and other levels of Government to fight bad-faith evictions, including “renovictions;” and increase fines and penalties for landlords who break the law.

Highlights from Bill 205 include:

  • Increased time for tenants to find a new apartment when facing eviction for “no-fault” reasons;
  • Increased compensation for tenants when facing eviction for “no-fault” reasons;
  • Mandatory requirements for Landlords to use proper forms and give tenants copies of all documents related to a “renoviction;”
  • Expanded enforcement power and remedies given to the Landlord and Tenant Board and Provincial government agencies to fight bad-faith “no fault” evictions;
  • The creation of a registry at the Landlord and Tenant Board for all “no-fault” eviction applications;
  • Requiring the Landlord and Tenant Board to make information relating to these “no-fault” eviction applications accessible to the public; and
  • Increased availability of legal advice and representation for tenants facing “no-fault” evictions.

Bill 205 seeks to expand timelines for “no-fault” evictions, increase transparency during the legal eviction process, broaden the enforcement powers given to the Landlord and Tenant Board and Government agencies to fight bad faith evictions, and expand access to legal services for tenants facing eviction.

Expanded Timeframes and Increased Transparency

At CERA, we routinely hear from tenants across Ontario who receive verbal or informal written demands from landlords to move out of their apartments for reasons relating to renovations or when a landlord claims they need the apartment for a family member. These demands bypass the formal eviction process at the Landlord and Tenant Board, including the use of proper forms that notify tenants of their rights, and are sometimes accompanied by pressure and harassment from landlords. Bill 205 addresses the problem of informal landlord demands to move out by requiring the use of official Landlord and Tenant Board forms for giving tenants notice to end their tenancy. Bill 205 also requires landlords to provide detailed information, in cases where they are seeking to evict a tenant due to extensive renovations or a demolition, directly to tenants when they serve a notice of termination. These requirements will ensure tenants are served with proper forms that include information about their right to proper notice, a legal termination date and notice period in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act, and the rules regarding compensation for tenants in instances when they are entitled to compensation for an eviction. The requirement to provide all necessary information, including permits and authorization for renovations/demolition, directly to tenants will also help ensure landlords do not attempt to evict tenants under false pretenses. Taken together, these requirements will help ensure tenants are made aware of their rights and do not vacate the rental unit in accordance with informal or bad-faith demands.

Different levels of government are working to develop unique and complementary policies that protect affordable housing and fight illegal evictions. Unfortunately, much of this work is taking place in the absence of good data collection and sharing across levels of government – a key component of well-informed policymaking. Bill 205 will assist with better data collection and sharing by creating a registry of landlord “no-fault” eviction applications that will include data on the geographic location and outcome of these applications. Data from this registry will be published on an annual basis and shared across levels of government and with the public. Among other benefits, the availability of this data will allow governments across the Province to compile and analyze aggregate data to view trendlines about where these types of evictions are more prevalent and the outcome of these eviction applications – information that will allow levels of government to target policy responses to communities most in need. For tenants, the availability of this information will help them to make more informed decisions about whether to rent from landlords with past histories of evicting tenants.

Low vacancy rates, vacancy decontrol and skyrocketing rent prices make securing affordable housing increasingly difficult for tenants across Ontario. Evictions compound this difficulty by forcing tenants out into a difficult rental market under tight timelines and with additional disruption and expenses related to moving. Bill 205 increases the length of time tenants have to vacate their property when given proper notice and increases the mandatory amount of compensation tenants are entitled to when they are evicted for one of the “no-fault” reasons. These provisions have the potential to ease the transition to a new home for tenants who are legally evicted.

Expanded Remedies and Enforcement Powers

Because of vacancy decontrol, a policy that allows landlords to raise the rent by an unlimited amount when a tenant vacates an apartment, the financial incentives for landlords to unlawfully evict a tenant are high. This financial incentive is unlikely to be curbed by current fines and penalties given the relatively low amount of these penalties compared to the amount that can be charged by landlords in higher rent. Additionally, the onus on proving an unlawful eviction rests with tenants who are unlikely to have the necessary resources, in the form of legal representation or otherwise, to properly investigate and seek a remedy if they were evicted in bad faith. Bill 205 includes measures to tackle the above problems by increasing the penalties for landlords who unlawfully evict tenants and includes provisions that give tenants the right to return to their unit following an unlawful eviction or be provided with another vacant unit from their landlord at the same amount of rent. Bill 205 also increases enforcement and investigative capacity for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (the Ministry) by requiring the Landlord and Tenant Board to notify the Ministry when an Order for eviction is issued based on a “no-fault” reason and compels the Ministry to take measures to ensure the eviction was carried out in good faith. If the Ministry determines that an eviction was unlawful, Bill 205 grants them the power to notify the tenant of the unlawful eviction and extends the period of time a tenant can take action at the Landlord and Tenant Board based on this notification to two years from the date they vacated the unit instead of 12 months from the date they vacated the unit.

Expanded Access to Legal Representation

Landlords have access to legal representation to help them navigate the eviction process at the Landlord and Tenant Board in a manner that is vastly disproportionate to tenants. This uneven access to legal representation creates a power imbalance in favor of landlords and makes navigating the eviction process an unfair fight for tenants. Bill 205 attempts to ease this power imbalance by requiring Legal Aid Ontario to provide, upon request, legal representation to tenants who are facing eviction for “no-fault” reasons. Given that no-fault evictions target tenants from all economic circumstances, it is encouraging to see that Bill 205 proposes to bypass Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility requirements in these circumstances.

What’s Missing?

While the above measures have the potential to lessen the financial incentives for landlords to engage in unlawful evictions, these measures need to be accompanied by the elimination of vacancy decontrol to truly tackle the disturbing rise in unlawful no-fault evictions across Ontario.

Further clarification and additional details are required to clarify the methods by which tenants can obtain legal aid services when facing eviction for “no-fault” reasons. It is unclear whether tenants will be able to obtain these services through Legal Aid Ontario’s Certificate program, through increased capacity and resources in Ontario’s Community Legal Aid Clinics, or a combination of both.

CERA’s Take

Evictions are a highly disruptive events, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis, and have long-lasting physical, financial, and mental health consequences. As such, evictions should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and as a last resort. Tenants facing eviction should be made aware of their rights and be in a position to exercise them at the outset of and throughout the eviction process. Bill 205 includes some positive steps to ensure tenants are able to navigate the eviction process in a fair and transparent manner. Of particular interest are the measures which ensure tenants are made aware of their rights through mandated use of proper documentation and increased requirements for information to be provided by landlords. As well, a province-wide, accessible registry of “no-fault” eviction applications/orders is long overdue and has the potential to influence municipal and province wide policy solutions at a targeted level. Also of interest are the commitments to crack down on unlawful “no-fault” evictions by strengthening the capacity for the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Ministry to investigate and penalize landlords who undertake these evictions. Until vacancy decontrol ends, the financial incentive for landlords to unlawfully evict tenants will remain in place, but the measures included in Bill 205 may help curb the ability of landlords to unlawfully evict tenants with little or no consequences, and are a good first step. We are encouraged by the attention being given to these important issues and hope that Bill 205 receives all due consideration from our elected representatives.

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