On Wednesday, December 16, at page A7, the Ottawa Citizen published an op-ed piece calling for a renewed eviction moratorium. It can also be read at https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/turnbull-hale-and-harris-secure-housing-is-the-first-line-of-defence-against-covid-19.
As EOLO Chair, John Dickie submitted an op-ed piece in reply yesterday. It may be published sometime in the next few days. Even if it is not published, the points are available for your use in any discussions you may become involved in on the topic.
************** EOLO's Reply **************
Some have been calling for the Provincial government to impose a moratorium on residential evictions. Such an action would be bad public policy.
There are a number of reasons why some residential tenancies are terminated. One reason is non-payment of rent. Others reasons are tenant behaviour which seriously disturbs other tenants (such as failure to prepare for pest treatments), constitutes an illegal act (such as drug offences or assaults), or endangers the safety of other tenants (such as disabling smoke alarms after repeated warnings).
For many of those reasons, a tenant can correct their behaviour and continue their tenancy. But if the disruptive or dangerous behaviour does not change after repeated warnings under the Residential Tenancies Act (the “RTA”), the landlord needs a realistic threat of eviction, to make the tenant change their behaviour.
For the most part, it is other tenants (or neighbours) who suffer if the landlord cannot make the disruptive tenant change their behaviour or vacate. Banning evictions would reduce landlords’ ability to keep responsible tenants safe and satisfied in their homes. Moreover, terminations for bad behaviour do not usually result in homelessness, even temporarily. Most tenants who are evicted for those reasons find and move directly into other housing.
Unlike the law of some other provinces and many other countries, Ontario law limits the ability of a property owner to end a tenancy. Ontario law does leave property owners with the right to occupy their property for their own use. As a result, eviction orders are also sometimes needed to enforce agreements to terminate, or to obtain possession for personal use for a purchaser or continuing owner. Terminations for personal use also do not usually result in homelessness.
Finally, some tenants are not paying their rent. Some can pay, but choose to withhold their rent until ordered to pay it. Other tenants need government help to pay rent arrears, which is often only sought once an eviction application has been started. Without the ability to end tenancies for non-payment, landlords are forced to provide housing services with no compensation. People who cannot pay are not allowed to walk out of a grocery store with groceries but without paying. Banning evictions would mean people could use and benefit from the housing they occupy without paying for it.
The RTA already makes an eviction ban unnecessary. Landlord and Tenant Board (“LTB”) orders for termination for non-payment always allow a tenant to pay and stay. The LTB encourages tenants and landlords to agree to payment plans for unpaid rent. If a tenant and a landlord do not agree on a payment plan, the LTB will often impose a plan, which the LTB thinks the tenant should be able to follow.
As a result, tenants who try their best to pay, are unlikely to be ordered evicted; and even if they are, they can still save their tenancy if they obtain the money to pay the rent they owe.
The Province should provide sufficient funds so that low-income households receive the money they need in order to be able to pay for the housing they need. That could be a provincial rent subsidy program, provincial funding for a Rent Bank, or provincial funding for the municipalities to provide social assistance to all households which need it. In fact, such funding is already in place in the City of Ottawa.
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