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Rent tribunal's fairness defended

London Free Press, June 21, 2002
By Colin Perkel, CP

TORONTO -- Ontario's rental-dispute agency is fair despite a damning report that concludes the agency has become an efficient eviction machine that tramples tenant rights, the government said yesterday.

Provincial statistics cited in the report show the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal issued 118,800 eviction orders -- 58 per cent of the landlord applications -- without hearing from tenants between June 1998 and Dec. 31, 2001.

Part of the problem is tenants have just five calendar days to respond in writing to an eviction notice, which can be mailed by the landlord, or they are automatically issued an order to leave their rental homes.

"I think it's fair, yes," said Tina Molinari, associate housing minister.

The process is "streamlined" in favour of both landlords and tenants, she said.

Kathy Laird, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario who wrote the 50-page report, called the situation "stark."

"The government has traded fairness for expediency," Laird said.

Tenants may never receive the eviction notice and "the legislation has left the process unnecessarily open to abuse," the report concludes.

Opposition critics denounced the process as grossly unjust and called the government's refusal to alter the "worst tenant protection legislation in the country" disgraceful.

"Thousands of Ontarians get thrown out on the street every day because this government is more interested in protecting developers than in protecting tenants and making sure they have a roof over their head," said Liberal Dominic Agostino.

The report concludes thousands of people lose their homes because they do not understand the process. New immigrants, single parents, the elderly and the disabled are especially vulnerable.

Molinari said the Tory government, which set up the tribunal in 1998, provides sufficient information for tenants. "We have put a Web page in place and there's a 1-888 number. So all of the parameters are in place for them to be able to respond."

As many as 89,000 tenants have responded within the five-day limit, she noted.

New Democrat Michael Prue condemned the legislation. "The government should ensure that everyone gets a hearing. At least the people would be heard."

Executive Summary by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants - Ontario, June 20, 2002 report to the Ombudsman of Ontario.
Their Full Report of what is wrong with Ontario's Tenant Protection Act and the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal

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