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
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
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.