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NDP warns of rental scam

Ontario landlords said using `discounted' rents to lure unsuspecting tenants

Canadian Press - February 26, 2002

Ontario landlords are luring tenants with promises of cheaper rent, only to hit them with large, but perfectly legal, increases eight months later, critics say.

The province's New Democrats are pushing the government to put an end to what they say is a "sleazy practice."

"We call it a bait-and-switch because it's just like the old con game," New Democrat Michael Prue told a news conference Tuesday.

Under the Tenant Protection Act, landlords are allowed to offer prospective tenants a discount for eight months, as long as the amount over a year is less than a month's rent.

At the end of that period, the landlord may charge the full rate - and can raise it again by as much as the 3.9 per cent rate set by the province.

Many tenants don't realize when they sign the lease that the landlord is legally entitled to do so, said Prue.

As a result, some find themselves forced to move or to pay the increase.

Tenants have to be "cautious" when accepting a lower rate, Prue said. "As soon as they agree to the discount, they're also agreeing to future troubles down the road."

Theresa Bowers, president of the Main Square Tenants Association in Toronto, said three people in her large residential east-end building were caught off guard by huge increases.

"There is nowhere on the lease that that is stated," said Bowers, of the landlords' ability to charge the full rate.

"I'm afraid that there's been a lot more tenants who have signed and committed to these leases . . . and have no idea of what they got themselves into."

Municipal Affairs Minister Chris Hodgson was not immediately available to comment.

While vacancy rates are low in many of the province's larger centres, there has been an increase in available units, creating an incentive for landlords to lure tenants with promises of cheaper rates, said Prue.

The current legislation on discounted rates is convoluted and totally unintelligible to anyone other than a lawyer, he added.

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