Winter brings special considerations for tenants. Although the laws surrounding residential tenancies do not change with the seasons, some issues are more prevalent during Canada’s chilly months.
I will debunk some common myths and offer some tips to prevent eviction from and damage to your rental unit. Please note that the comments in this article apply only to tenancies covered by Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act (that is, rental situations where the tenant does not share a kitchen or bathroom with the landlord).
If you find yourself in one of the situations below, contact your local Community Legal Clinic for advice about your particular scenario.
1. Myth: you can't be evicted in the winter.
Fact: You absolutely can be evicted in the winter. There is no special rule about evictions in the winter months, provided you are being evicted for legal reasons.
2. Myth: if my landlord does not fix my heat, I can withhold rent.
Fact: You can never withhold rent, and you risk eviction if you do not pay your rent in full when it is due. If your landlord does not fix your heat, despite numerous contacts and attempts to have your landlord fix your heat, you can file a T2 application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
Obviously, it is a big problem to not have heat in Canada in the winter. But you do not have the right to stay in a hotel for the night if your landlord does not respond to your text in the first hour. But, if they do not respond at all and you have tried numerous times in various ways, you could be entitled to alternate accommodations and compensation. For any expenses you have incurred related to lack of heat, save your receipts and include them with your application to the LTB. For other maintenance concerns of a less urgent nature, you can file a T6 application with the LTB.
On a practical level, filing a T2 application with the LTB and waiting for a hearing takes time. For more immediate results, contact your local Property Standards office and/or the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (1-888-772-9277) for assistance in dealing directly with your landlord.
Myth: my pipes burst when I was away over the holidays. I don’t have to pay the very expensive repair bill.
Fact: There are situations in which you might be responsible for the expenses. Pipes can freeze even inside your house if there is poor insulation. Imagine the back room of your house is very cold and your landlord gave you a heater with instructions to leave it on to make sure the pipes do not freeze. You leave for the holidays and do not leave the heater on because of fire concerns, but you do not contact your landlord to let them know. You return to find the pipes have frozen and there is water everywhere. If your landlord had known you would be away, they might have come with a different kind of heater, or come by to run hot water through the pipes during your absence.
This is just one example, but it’s important to remember that if you are going away over the winter, it’s a good idea to tell your landlord, especially if your house or building is older. Those quirky house problems could be an expensive surprise after a relaxing week on the beach.
Myth: tenants are responsible for snow removal.
Fact: Landlords are responsible. That being said, you and your landlord might have made a special arrangement where you agree to shovel the walk for some kind of compensation, like reduced rent in the winter. Or maybe your landlord is 80 years old and you are simply able-bodied and kind.
But generally, the landlord is responsible for clearing the snow within a reasonable amount of time, which is usually dictated by municipal by-laws (in Toronto, it is within 24 hours of the snowfall).
Rachael Lake is a staff lawyer with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, practising in the areas of Disability and Employment Insurance Law. Reasonable Doubt appears on Mondays.
A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from a lawyer. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.
Please see the following from Toronto ACORN:
Toronto is quickly becoming a city only for rich people and developers - $1500 a month for rent isn't affordable!
ACORN members are demanding a new definition of affordable that's based on income, so that we can actually afford the city's affordable housing.
When: Tuesday December 4th, 11 AM
Where: Toronto City Hall (100 Queen Street West)
Come out on Tuesday December 4th - the mayor and new city councillors are being sworn, we will be there to remind them they need to make affordable housing the #1 priority.
Contact Toronto ACORN at 416 461 9233 or torontoFO@ACORNCanada.org for more details or get involved in helping with the event.
Check us Toronto ACORN on facebook to stay up to date: https://www.facebook.com/torontoacorn/
Learn more about the OASIS Seniro Supportive living project in Kingston and latest efforst to bring supportive living projects to Toronto...
“Changing Perceptions of Aging”
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
CHRIST CHURCH DEER PARK
1570 Yonge Street
On west side of Yonge St. at Heath St., 2 blocks north of St. Clair subway station.
Public parking is located just west of Yonge, on south side of Heath Street.
Limited seating. Call 416-630-7000 or email email@example.com to reserve a space!
A retired Ontario Government policy advisor, seniors advocate and lead initiator of OASIS Senior Supportive Living in Kingston and now in Toronto, Ms. Christine McMillan will address our Annual Meeting about how naturally occurring residential communities can generate‚Ä¶
It's an interesting time for Toronto! Elections are up and soon the new council session will start with the new Ward structure created by the province. Stay up to date in tenant issues! You are invited to the Toronto Tenant Summit, Saturday, October 27, from 10 to 4 at 120 Carlton St., in Toronto! Please, check RSVP with Eventbrite by following the link below.
The FMTA Tenant Summit is a gathering of tenants and tenants associations to discuss strategies for organization and advocacy in the city of Toronto. Above Guideline Rent Increases are on the rise throughout the city. Massive gentrification is a reality in almost every neighbourhood. And a great number of infills* are being approved by the City of Toronto.
Toronto tenants need to think about how to protect their rights when facing an onslaught of development and a rising cost of living.
To discuss these questions and search for solutions to our problems you and your neighbours are cordially invited to come to the FMTA's Toronto Tenant Summit. Sponsored by the Federation of Metro Tenants (FMTA) and supported by the Akelius Tenants Network (ATN) and The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). The purpose of the summit is for tenants and tenants association to network, discuss common issues and their solutions, and to create a unified plan of action to tackle problems facing us all.
*Infills are buildings erected in the backyard of other buildings, subjecting resident tenants to a prolonged construction environment, limitation in air flow and loss of sunlight.
The 6-alarm fire at 650 Parliament Street has displaced over 1500 tenants. Many tenants are struggling to find accommodations, retrieve possessions and understand their rights.
Here is what the law says are landlord responsibilities after a fire and steps tenants can take to enforce their rights:
Find Tenants a Place to Live:
A landlord has a responsibility to find tenants displaced by a fire suitable alternative accommodation while the apartment is being refurbished (such as a hotel or an empty apartment). If a tenant makes their own arrangement, such as living with a family member or friend, they might still be able to apply for an abatement of rent for the period they are unable to live in their apartment.
Compensation for Damage to Tenant Possessions and out-of-pocket expenses:
Landlords may have to reimburse tenants in the aftermath of a fire, if the landlord is found to be at fault. A tenant may be able to apply for and receive compensation to repair or replace damaged possessions. In order to do this, a tenant can try (at the earliest opportunity) to make an inventory of their possessions (as well as any warrantees, estimates, receipts and other supporting documents).
Likewise, tenants might be entitled to reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses such as gas, meals and emergency supplies. Please keep all receipts.
Tenants may either be able to negotiate the compensation with their landlord or have to make an application at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Work with Your Neighbours:
For a fire at the scale seen at 650 Parliament, tenants can consider working together to advocate with their landlord for compensation or alternative accomodations. Moreover, tenants are also able to file group applications at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
For more information, please call our Tenant Hotline at 416-921-9494 or consult with a local community legal clinic.
Renoviction refers to a situation where a landlord evicts a tenant under the guise of needing to complete major renovations requiring the tenants to move out, and then re-lists the apartment for more than the original rent. Technically, the evicted tenant has the right of first refusal to move back in after the renovations are complete without a substantial increase in rent, but there is no law in place to force landlords to contact the former tenant. Sometimes, the former tenant sees the listing again and realizes they were duped, but often they never find out.
“There is a massive incentive for landlords to break the law, throw people out and jack up the rent,” Geordie is quoted in the article. “It’s brazenly illegal but there is a lot of money to be made,” he adds.
After a case of renoviction made headlines last spring, the Ministry of Housing said it would look into the issue, though there are as yet no changes. The limited protections that tenants do have are challenging to enforce. The precarious situation for tenants is heightened by the state of the rental market in Toronto.
Rental Housing by the Numbers:
Less than 1%: the current vacancy rate. A healthy rental market requires a vacancy rate of between 3-5%.
1.8%: provincial rent increase guideline for 2019.
$1803: the average rent for a 1-bedroom condo in 2017.
120 days: the advance notice landlords are required to give tenants for renovations.
47%: Toronto households that are renters.
47%: Toronto renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
40 thousand: the number of affordable units John Tory promises to build in 12 years.
To read the full article, which appeared in Now Magazine, visit:
Vulnerable Energy Consumers’ Coalition (VECC) advocates for the interest of low-income energy consumers. In recent decisions released between January - June 2018, VECC obtained approximately $8 million in savings for consumers relative to what utilities requested. This reflects roughly $40 million in savings for consumers over the next five years as a cumulative result of those decisions.
These reductions consist primarily of lowered service fees ($1.3 million/ year), trimming operating and capital budgets in rate applications ($4.2 million/ year), and increasing the contributions of other hydro pole users ($2.7 million/ year).
VECC has made other, less quantifiable, though significant gains to benefit low-income energy consumers.
Hydro One remotes serves remote communities, usually through in-community diesel generators. They applied to increase their rates for 2018.
VECC intervened to oppose the rate increase. According to VECC Counsel Ben Segel-Brown, VECC supported a request by first nations representatives for a community liaison officer to help inform low-income consumers of the programs available to help them with their energy bills.
Hydro One Remotes agreed to a settlement proposal which reduced the rates being charged by $3.2 million for 2018 (which will carry over as a baseline for future years) and added a community liaison officer.
The Vulnerable Energy Consumer Coalition (VECC) is an unincorporated coalition of two major Ontario organizations The Federation of Metro Tenants Associations and the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens facilitated by the assistance of a national non-profit charitable organization the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.