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Legalese - November 23, 2006

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Legalese - November 23, 2006 Upcoming Changes to Landlord and Tennant Law

William A. Florence, Barrister and Solicitor Rural Legal Services, Sharbot Lake

The Tenant Protection Act, 1997 is the current legislation which provides a legal framework for the relationship between landlords and tenants. A large variety of rental units such as apartments, houses, rooms in a rooming house, sites in a mobile home park, and retirement homes, are covered by this legislation.

When there are disputes between landlords and tenants, these problems can be resolved at the independent, quasi-judicial agency called the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal. Disputes are resolved through mediation, (where both parties come to an agreement with the help of a mediator who facilitates a discussion to help resolve problems), or, a Tribunal Member will adjudicate the problem after hearing both sides present their case.

Some of the common disputes that landlords and tenants have are:

Legalese_06-26the amount of rent that may be increased during the tenancy; problems with the maintenance of the rental property, (which can range from minor wear and tear issues to health and safety concerns); and problems which may lead to eviction proceedings, (i.e. non-payment of rent).

On January 31, 2007 the Tenant Protection Act, 1997 will be replaced by the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. Under the new legislation, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal will have its name changed to the Landlord and Tenant Board. Some of the goals of the new legislation are: to provide a fair balance of protection for both the landlord and the tenant; to provide a greater degree of accessibility to the Board; and to provide a more fair process for resolving disputes.

The new legislation will base annual rent increase guidelines on the Consumer Price Index for Ontario, which is the rate of inflation. To go above the guideline for increased rent, the landlord must apply to the Board. The upper limit on an above guideline increase will be 3% per year, and there will be a stricter test in the new legislation for when the Board decides whether an above guideline increase will be allowed. If there are concurrent serious maintenance problems with the rental unit, the Board could deny or delay a proposed rent increase.

Under the current legislation, if a tenant does not file a “dispute” to a landlord’s application for eviction, a “default hearing” could be held by the Tribunal prior to the date specified in the “notice” sent to the tenant. The tenant would not be in attendance at the default hearing, or even know when it was occurring, and yet, an eviction order could be the result! The new legislation makes no provision for default hearings. As a consequence a hearing will be held on the date originally scheduled regardless of whether the tenant has formally filed a “dispute”.

Another positive change in the legislation allows tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent to raise other issues at the hearing such as maintenance problems with the rental unit. Under the existing legislation tenants have to file separate applications with the tribunal to raise safety or maintenance issues: a process that has often made it difficult for tenants to respond effectively in a timely manner to a landlord’s application.

The foregoing are some of the highlights of the upcoming Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. Your community legal clinic is an excellent resource for further information, and can provide legal advice and representation for tenants who are in need of assistance.

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