The FMTA board recently decided to join the Public Transit Coalition and support the call that:
"that the TTC must be kept public, be properly funded by all levels of Government, and that the Transit City Light Rail plan be completed by 2020."
More information about the Public Transit Coalition can be found at publictransitcoalition.ca.
Two weeks ago, the FMTA board responded to an article in the Toronto Star where a landlord-group labelled pro-tenant measures related to the HST "unfair."
April 13, 2010
To The Editor
Re: Landlords call Province's HST Measures Unfair
Landlords are playing a shell game with the facts to justify cutting back their maintenance costs and neglecting the needs of tenants in Toronto and across the Province.
Landlords are exaggerating the projected impact of the HST. Operating costs for a rental building in Toronto are less than 50% of rent charged as per the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs and thousands of rent increase applications. The biggest cost is Municipal taxes and that is not subject to the HST. Other significant costs are management and staff salaries also not subject to HST. Items purchased are subject to HST, but in reality, they are already subject to both Provincial and Federal Sales tax - so there is no real change there.
The only serious impact of the HST is on the cost of heat and hydro. It's important that the Province not include the HST on these essential home costs. Approximately 20-25% of Toronto's tenants will start incurring this cost on July 1 of this year. What the Government is doing will prevent landlords from taking an extra increase in 2011 based on the HST, and then benefiting from a higher guideline in 2012 partly based on HST inflation.
What landlords are conveniently not saying is that the 2010 guideline (2.1%) is about triple the rate of inflation. Property tax for multi-residential buildings will go up less than 1% in 2010 in Toronto. In fact, over 128,000 rental units have recently experienced a drop in taxes of more than 2.5%. A further study of guideline increases over the last 25 years will show that the guideline has almost always met or exceeded the rate of inflation. And how about just a few years ago where tens of thousands of tenants were given extra permanent rent increases for a temporary spike in gas costs.
Short memories can be useful for landlords, but not looking at the whole picture is misleading.
Federation Metro Tenants Associations
The FMTA board put up a facebook fan page for the FMTA!
Become a fan of the FMTA and learn more about our great work and campaigns.
Join our fan page here.
Services provided by the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations and
funded by the City of Toronto
Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations - Organizer and Outreach Worker
Our Outreach and Organizing Team requires a full time (35 hrs. per week) person to work with tenants in Toronto. This position will deal with issues under the Residential Tenancies Act such as rent increases above the guideline and other issues affecting the supply of affordable rental housing.
The ideal candidate:
- Must have strong interpersonal skills and speaking ability.
- Must support tenant rights and the goals of the Federation.
- Must be able to work with diverse groups.
- Must be able to work evening hours and occasional weekends.
- Must be willing to travel to all parts of Toronto, although car not required (TTC pass provided).
- Should have good knowledge of tenant legislation and policies, particularly rent regulation.
- Should have experience in the tenant community. Knowledge of smart metering and environmental issues would be an asset.
- Experience in working with a variety of cultures, and/or fluency in other languages would also be an asset.
The successful candidate will be working in a team atmosphere and with tenants across the City as we seek to improve the quality of life for residential tenants. Our Outreach program is part of the City of Toronto Tenant Defence Fund Program.
Salary will be $40,392 per annum with a benefit package after four months. FMTA Staff are members of CUPE Local 1281.
Interested persons should submit a covering letter with their resume to [email protected] For those without e-mail, regular mail (address below), or a fax may be sent to 416-413-9821. Please submit by February 23, 2010, 4:00 pm.
No phone calls please. Only those applicants considered for the position will be contacted for an interview.
For more information about the Federation, visit www.torontotenants.org .
We welcome the contributions that individuals from oppressed communities bring to our organization, and invites aboriginal people, people of colour, women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, two-spirtied people, transsexuals,single parents,members of ethnic minorities,immigrants and people with disabilities to apply. Any personal disclosure will be held in confidence.
An important article from the Toronto Star
The FMTA, Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO) and the Tenant Duty Counsel Program scored a victory this month when the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) halted telephone hearings in the Southwest region of Ontario.
Members of the FMTA had previously met with the Landlord and Tenant Board in the past months to try to put a stop to the so called "60 Second Eviction" which can take place with a telephone hearing.
ACTO launched a campaign this June to have the telephone hearing pilot project halted instead of continued or expanded. The LTB halted the program at the end of June pending an evaluation.
The Chair of the Landlord and Tenant Board replied to our letter expressing concerns about tenant access to justice, and the economic crisis. To read the letter, click on the Word attachment.
1. The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations (the FMTA) is a non profit incorporated organization with the sole purpose of advancing the interests of residential tenants. The Federation was founded in 1974.
2. The FMTA is a member of the Low Income Energy Network (LIEN), and the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition (VECC), and we are allied with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). We look forward to their expert involvement in this matter. This submission is independent and will be based on our experience with tenants on the issue of discretionary sub or smart metering.
3. Since the summer of 2008, we have met with hundreds of tenants in several buildings where sub meters have been installed. We receive calls on a daily basis from tenants concerned with sub meter installation.
4. Tenants are at a severe disadvantage in any negotiation with a landlord because of inequal access to the facts about the costs of the buildings they live in. Landlords are in the business of being landlords.
5. Matters are compounded by language and other barriers that exist for many tenants. This adds doubt that some tenants would have given informed consent on a matter that affects their rights.
6. Almost all of the buildings where we met tenants were managed by Briar Lane Management, and to our knowledge all of the sub meters were installed by Stratacon.
7. The installation of these meters and the actions of the two named companies has caused great and unnecessary stress on tenants.
8. We are opposed to any authorization or licence given to either of these two companies (or any affiliated companies or ownership) unless strict and enforceable and tough conditions are attached.
9. Notwithstanding some statements by the installing company, and statements made by spokespeople for landlord organizations, it is our view that tenants were badly treated in the process.
10. At first, we saw this as a simple matter and that tenants merely had to say no to any change in their tenancy agreement that would require them to pay for hydro to a third party. For convenience to tenants, we drafted simple letters of refusal for both the landlord and the third party installer. A tenancy agreement can not be changed without consent.
11. Regardless, tenants who explicitly refused the offer of the unlicenced companies, were billed for hydro services by Stratacon. These bills included a security deposit and a set up fee.
12. There are tenants who accepted the offer believing the corresponding rent reduction would be fair, who later discovered that the new cost of hydro added to their rent meant an increase in their overall housing cost.
13. There are other tenants who signed agreements for the third party in the belief that they had no choice. Given the power imbalance between landlords and tenants and the inequal knowledge of the relevant facts, it is inappropriate to allow these agreements to stand, particularly in light of the finding of this Board that the sub metering was unlicenced.
14. Additionally, there are undoubtedly tenants who have moved into buildings after the installation of these meters who had no choice (or usage information) but to pay hydro to the third party.
15. We also recognize that for some tenants, the offer turned out to be relatively fair. Many tenants do not spend much time at home and do not need special appliances.
16. For many tenants, certainty in budgeting is absolutely necessary. Utilities included in the rent achieves more certainty.
17. Another major concern of tenants is that they cannot see the meters and check their usage. Not all tenants have access to the internet. We have heard many concerns about their installation. In one building, a qualified electrician has advised the tenants that the meters were not properly installed.
18. After hearing about people being billed and seeing examples of the bills themselves, the FMTA contacted the Consumer Protection Office. We learned about section 13 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act. We asked that office to take action to stop the practice of billing people that Stratacon had no contract with. In our opinion, it was clearly an unsolicited bill.
19. To our surprise, the Consumer Protection Office told us that all of this was the purview of the Ontario Energy Board.
20. In the latter part of 2008, we brought our concerns to the attention of the Ontario Energy Board and asked them to take action.
21. We were surprised to learn that Stratacon was not licenced and later learned of section 53.18 of the Electricity Act.
22. We did know that Briar Lane had hired an experienced lawyer to advocate against applications that had been brought by tenants to the Landlord Tenant Board. Given their legal representation and the size of the corporations involved, it is unconscionable for them to be carrying on this activity.
23. Citizens of Ontario know that if they are caught doing something against the law, that they can not profit from it and that they must pay a penalty. We expect nothing less for corporations.
24. The actions of Briar Lane and Stratacon have been plainly described as "jumping the gun". We believe that part of this was to force a better deal for them than that incorporated in section 137 and 138 of the Residential Tenancies Act. They have engaged in a game of chicken with the Ontario Government. This Board should not blink and should sanction their pre-mature and unlawful activity with the strongest conditions possible on any further action.
25. As the Ontario Energy Board found it necessary to issue a "cease and desist" order on March 24 based on the law of Ontario, it is clear that any tenant who received a bill based on discretionary metering was being asked to pay for unlawful activity. Therefore, any monies received should be returned to all tenants who continue to reside in affected buildings, or to former tenants who contact Stratacon within ninety days of this condition being imposed.
26. All Accounts Receivable from tenants should be nullified.
27. The Smart Meter Company will be free to collect compensation from the landlords who allowed the unlicenced activity on the premises. We note that since it is not unlawful to reduce rents in Ontario, that the landlord may not increase the rent to former levels, except as allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act.
28. That no current tenant should ever be billed by a third party for a utility unless they have given their explicit and informed consent. Such consent should be capable of being withdrawn, in writing, for any reason within 120 days of giving consent. Should sections 137 and 138 of the Resdiential Tenancies Act be proclaimed, those sections may take priority.
29. Tenants who received bills from Stratacon were demanded to pay a security deposit of $100, a set up fee, and interest and late payment fees. Tenants have established themselves contractually with the landlord and have usually given a deposit for the last months rent. We therefore would ban such deposits for sitting tenants, and would recognize it as a barrier for low income tenants. Any one contracting with a third party must be informed of interest and late payment fees.
30. The Companies that we have named and their Chief Executive Officers should pay a fine before being allowed to conduct further discretionary metering business in rental housing.
31. Extra fees for administrative costs must be reviewed to ensure that the distributor is only recovering reasonable costs.
32. To address concerns about the proper installation of sub meters during the last year, that the installing company be required to have all installations checked by an independent, licenced and qualified electrician, and a report filed with this Board.
New Objectionable Activity
33. In compliance with the Procedural Order of this Board, Briar Lane management circulated the notice as ordered. However, they also circulated a cover letter which was highly selective in its' message. In short, the letter gives the impression that the purpose of this hearing is based on some tenants being in favour of the practice of converting their tenancy to pay a third party for hydro. As the hundreds of tenants that we have met with are adamantly opposed to the practice (even if it were lawful), we find this letter to be misleading. It adds to our concern about the ongoing business activities of this company and its' alliance with Stratacon.
Written Versus Oral Hearing
34. We have read the submission of our friends at ACTO. Although we do not share their enthusiasm for the process at the Ministry of Housing on this matter, we concur with all of their points raised.
35. As we do not have the resources to participate fully in an oral hearing, we will continue to rely primarily on our written submission, as well as the participation of organizations such as VECC, LIEN and ACTO.
36. Should an oral hearing be convened, we would ask the Board to set aside a special time or times for tenants and tenant organizations to participate. We have had experience with the Ontario Municipal Board. That Board has frequently set aside a special evening session, so that tenants can come and speak to the Board (under oath and subject to cross examination) and have their views heard.
Licencing in General
37. We believe that any business that provides essential services to the public should be licenced. Therefore, no sub metering for purposes of electricity should be done without a licence. We note, peripherally, that Ontario landlords operate without licencing and that leaves consumers vulnerable. We have called on the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario to licence landlords. The activity contrary to section 53.18 of the Electricity Act is further evidence of the need for licencing.
38. We note that there are a number of companies that are licenced for sub metering purposes for non rental housing. The actions of one company in "jumping the gun" for rental housing should be of concern to their competitors. Stratacon should not be rewarded.
General Comments on Energy Conservation
39. The FMTA supports all reasonable measures to reduce electricity use. Every one in Ontario can conserve more. Tenants are no exception.
40. Underlying the move to sub metering is the suggestion that this is the way to conserve. In fact, it can be helpful, but there is so much more that can be done. Energy audits and replacement of wasteful fridges and stoves with energy efficient appliances should be done first.
41. Education of all households yields positive results. We are part of that and are anxious to do more.
42. Landlords and sub meter companies have attempted to wrap themselves in the environment to sell their plan. No one should be fooled. Landlords want to reduce their costs. Sub meter companies want to sell more of their product.
43. Smart meters can be helpful without converting to "user pay". A better idea would have been to install sub meters and offer tenants an incentive to reduce costs. This incentive could be a "split the savings" rewards program.
44. Many tenants now cannot live without an air conditioner in the summer time. Other tenants need other appliances for health reasons. These are legal usages in any one's home. Landlords seek to punish these people as they can be the higher end electricity users. This is blatantly unfair and they are seeking to undo negotiated terms of a tenancy agreement that include utilities.
45. Many tenants have told us that they find it necessary to use space heaters because landlords fail to provide adequate heat. This adds to electricity cost.
46. Time of Use and other matters can be punitive to young families and low income people. These people can't afford to eat out. Their children go to school during regular school hours, and need their meals at conventional times. They want to watch television or use the computer (if they have one) during early evening hours.
47. Some will tell you that there are virtuous tenants who don't use much electricity and these people are rewarded by a switch to self pay. However, this argument is disingenuous. For example, single men with full time jobs, the ability to travel, and to pay for restaurant meals on a regular basis will use less electricity. These are not the people that need a break in today's world. Our idea of a rewards program would encourage conservation for all.
48. The other thing you may hear is that tenants are wasteful. This argument was scandalously advanced in the debates and discussions on the Residential Tenancies Act. We all make mistakes, but we respectfully submit that people do not deliberately leave lights on or appliances on to hurt their landlord.
49. Stoves use the most energy and refrigerators are also big users. They are usually owned by the landlord. The landlord has all the control in terms of capital spending on energy efficiency.
50. In the absence of section 137 and 138 of the Residential Tenancies Act, there is no apparent law to ensure that landlords will make apartments energy efficient.
51. This issue is compounded if there is electric heating.
52. The proposed Harmonized Sales Tax will likely add to the cost of energy. This must be taken into account in any deliberations.
To conclude, we are here because of the unfair practices of certain landlords and a certain sub meter provider. If tenants had been offered an informed choice, and if they had the opportunity to say no, and having said no for that answer to be accepted, this hearing might not be necessary.
It is imperative, that the people of Ontario who happen to rent their home be protected from unfair practices. It is imperative that people who have violated the law of Ontario be punished, not rewarded. This is an issue that has affected thousands of tenants already, and can affect many thousands more.
We ask this Board to use all your delegated power to protect vulnerable energy consumers.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations
May 6, 2009
Dr. Lillian Ma
Landlord Tenant Board
777 Bay Street, 12th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Dear Dr. Ma,
Thank you for meeting with us on April 30. We believe that it is very important that we dialogue from time to time. In this meeting, we raised two main issues:
1. Tenant access to the Landlord Tenant Board, and the difficulties to tenants have in making and executing applications; and
2. The economic crisis and the need for Board to consider a more liberal interpretation of section 83 of the Act.
1. Tenant Access to the Landlord Tenant Board
In 2008, the Landlord Tenant Board received 69,000 landlord applications for eviction, and just 1,300 tenant applications for maintenance. From these statistics one could conclude either that tenants do not face serious tenant or maintenance issues, or that the Landlord Tenant Board is not accessible to tenants seeking relief when their landlords are not complying with the law.
Based on our experience, we believe that maintenance and repair issues are serious and that the Board is not accessible to tenants.
Our Hotline receives three times the number of calls for maintenance as we do for eviction. Our Outreach Team sees rents going up while maintenance concerns go unaddressed.
We can also point to the experience of the City of Toronto's Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Program. In order to address persistent problems with maintenance and repair in multi-residential apartment buildings, the City of Toronto began auditing buildings in late 2008. In just four months in 73 buildings, the building audit team has identified over 3000 deficiencies and made 369 work orders against landlords. These buildings were not selected for the audit program because they were "the worst" buildings in the city; they are representative of lower-income housing. Clearly repair and maintenance issues are deep and widespread.
We are concerned that tenants of these buildings, like so many others, will be faced with above-the-guideline rent increases as landlords do the necessary repairs to bring their homes up to a basic standard. However, we have no confidence that these same tenants will ever be compensated for the poor conditions they have been living in, because of problems with access to the Landlord Tenant Board.
To begin with, the Board's forms are confusing. Last year, we presented you with a one form system as a first step in making the process simpler. Without consulting us, you met with others and rejected the idea. The idea of a simplified form is not just supported by us, but was approved at a meeting of the Tenant Advocacy Group held in July of last year. This group includes the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario.
At the hearings themselves, tenants are pitted against experienced paralegals hired by professional landlords. We have seen too many hearings "run" by these paralegals with tenants unable to make themselves heard. While adjudicators must be impartial, it is important that they address this structural imbalance by doing everything they can to allow tenants to make their points in an informal manner.
We continue to note that the Board is set up to serve the business of landlords between 9 and 5. We call on you to investigate and implement an after hours service for people who can not take time off during the day to protect their rights.
Tenants are not in the business of being tenants. The intent of the legislation is remedial to correct imbalances. Any tenant who is not receiving adequate maintenance or is a victim of any other violation of the Act, should find it easy to come to your Board. They do not.
2. Impact of the Economic Crisis
This year, we are in the midst of the worst economic crisis in over 70 years. We were disappointed with your responses to this fact, as it can be reasonably foreseen that many good tenants will be losing their jobs and falling behind in the rent. Will victims of this crisis also lose their homes? We will do everything we can to help these tenants, and we simply call on the Board to use its authority under section 83 of the Act to help and protect these good people. There will be people who have never missed a payment in their lives who will not be able to afford their rent.
We believe that corporate landlords should be able to absorb some revenue loss in order to keep people housed. You can use your authority as a Board to take into account the circumstances that exist. In a fair and just society, we all must do our part. The Board must do its part. We feel that you should be discussing this issue with your staff on a regular basis.
In conclusion, in heralding the new legislation in 2006, the Government said it would protect good tenants. They said they would establish a fair and accessible system to enforce the intent of the legislation, which is protecting security of tenure and reasonable standards of rental accommodation.
We find that the Board has not met our reasonable expectations in its first two years. We are prepared to work constructively to help that to happen, before more tenants lose their homes, and more tenants do not get the justice they deserve when landlords do not comply with the law.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is interested in hearing about discrimination in rental housing. They have held consultations in Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo and Sudbury, but are still accepting written submissions until August 31, 2007.
If you would like to send a written submission, click here for more information!
(The Ontario Human Rights Code makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against you by not renting to you based on reasons like your race, ethnic origin, source of income, age, or that you have children)