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Easier Evictions
Harris' Tenant "Protection"

Roncesvalles Voice - December 1998 (written June 1998)
by Robert Levitt

The Harris government's new Tenant Protection Act (TPA) was proclaimed June 17th and is now in effect. The eviction rate is expected to increase with this act as it makes the eviction process easier for landlords and Vacancy Decontrol rewards landlords for evicting tenants.

A March report by City Councillor Jack Layton says, "over 138,000 of the residents in the City of Toronto are at risk of homelessness." Evictions in 1997 were up 25% over 1992, and Writs of Possession up about 50%. A 1994 study showed that 54.6% of rent arrears were because of a dispute with the landlord and not because the tenant could not pay the rent.

Under the TPA, if the landlord claims you have not paid the rent, they must serve you with a notice of termination, with a deadline of at least 14 days, (7 days for weekly or daily tenancies,) by which you must pay. If payment is not submitted on time, the landlord can file an application with the new Tribunalfor a hearing.

"As soon as you receive a notice of termination you should visit your local legal aid clinic or lawyer," says Mary Truemner, a lawyer with Parkdale Community Legal Services. Under this new law she says that you will only have five days after receiving a notice of the hearing to file a written notice with the Tribunal if you wish to dispute the eviction. "The timing is extremely important," she says.

Tenant advocates know landlords ususally don't even have to go through the whole eviction process to evict a tenant. Many tenant move out as soon as they get the notice of early termination from a landlord because they don't know their rights.

Vacancy Decontrol rewards landlords for evicting tenants, by legal or illegal means, because it allows landlords to charge as much as they can get for the vacant apartment.

Seniors, who usually remain in their units the longest, will be very vulnerable to coercion to get them out. One landlord told a recent real estate seminar, "the only way you get most seniors out is by moving them to the nursing home or the funeral home."

Tenants who are unaware of the details of the new law will be particularly vulnerable.

While landlords will want tenants to move so that they can secure an unregulated rent increase, tenants will want to stay put when they discover the cost of renting a vacant apartment. Even if tenants want to change apartments within the same building, say to acquire more space for a new baby, the will find that controls do not apply.

This new law is setting up the apartment market for conflicts like we have not seen in Ontario since the mid-70's, the problems during which led to Rent Controls in the first place.

Mike Harris promised that his new programme would "truly protect tenants and give them lower rents." The government has provided no evidence whatsoever to support these claims and there is substantial evidence to the contrary.

The fact is, the Tenant "Protection" Act will cause more evictions and will increase most rents over the next few years. And it will have its greatest effects on the most affordable apartments: the one's in the shortest supply.

An April 4 report for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, found that this Vacancy Decontrol experiment has been tried before, unsuccessfully in New York State. It was introduced in the early 1970's by Republican Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller, who quickly saw the damage his policy caused and commissioned a study into it. The study concluded Vacancy Decontrol in New York resulted in skyrocketing rents for the decontrolled units, hitting seniors and the poor the hardest. It found that "no beneficial side effects have resulted from Vacancy Decontrol." Mr. Rockefeller ended up repealing his own policy.

It looks like the Harris government does not care what history has to teach. It will be the tenants and our communities who will pay the price for many years to come for this government's shortsightness.

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