April 22, 2004 For Immediate Release
The release of the Government Tenancy Reform Consultation Paper has started an overdue debate on the fairest system for tenants and landlords.
Tenants have suffered under the mis-named Tenant Protection Act for six years. The announcement that the most unfair part of that act for sitting tenants will be eliminated for 2005 was welcome. The annual guideline will be reduced by 2%.
The Government also signals an end to vacancy de-control which has driven rents up hundreds of dollars. There are also strong signals that a fairer system to deal with evictions and other disputes will be implemented.
But the paper is weak on the issue of stopping Above Guideline Increases. Tenants in thousands of apartment buildings have experienced unfair and unjust and compounding rent increases based on capital expenditures or temporary jumps in utility costs (already included in the guideline).
The current system allows expenditures without regard to best business practices, historical data, neglect, and other circumstances. Once put in the rent, it stays in the rent and compounds annually. There is no provision for costs no longer borne and the paper gives that issue short shrift.
"This rent freeze is a beginning, but we have a lot of work to do with the tenants of Toronto to achieve the best possible system", stated Vivienne Loponen, Chair of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Association.
Loponen added "To their credit, the government has issued a true discussion paper. We will be encouraging all tenants to have their say."
December 4, 2003, For Immediate Release
The Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations is advising the new Ontario Government to keep its promise of "real protection for tenants at all times." It is time TO STOP ALL RENT INCREASES PENDING NEW LEGISLATION.
The FMTA has developed a Redprint containing 29 recommendations for fair legislation for tenants. This was approved as a statement in principle at the Federation's Annual General Meeting last Saturday.
"When adopted, there will not be any more unfair rent increases in Ontario," stated Dan McIntyre, Outreach Program Co-Ordinator for the FMTA, "and it will end the horrible nightmare of vacancy decontrol. We will also close the eviction factory known as the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal."
The Redprint was delivered to the Minister, The Honourable John Gerretsen on December 3rd. "We have started on the right path to get the changes that tenants need," said Gail Nyberg, Hotline Co-Ordinator of the Federation.
"The moratorium on increases is essential. Landlords are still taking rent increases and still exploiting tenants. The damages of the Tenant Protection Act must stop now," said Vivienne Loponen, Chair of the FMTA Board.
September 30, 2003
During this campaign, the Liberal party has confirmed and improved their policy on rent control.
However, the policy still does not call for a rent freeze or roll back and they continue to discuss vacancy rates in connection to possible de-control.
"Vacancy rate discussions are a trap for politicians cleverly set by the landlord lobby", said Dan McIntyre, Program Co-ordinator. "It is the worst false signal since Y2K".
The vacancy rate has gone up because landlords have created an artificial rent market that keeps young people out, that keeps retiring people out, that forces newcomers to share housing, and makes condominium purchasing a better option for many.
"In fact" says McIntyre "we have lost 17,000 rental units in the GTA according to recent census data". Meanwhile, landlords continue to squeeze existing tenants for annual increases well above the level of inflation.
We have talked to many candidates during and before the election. We have been promised a role in the development of new policy and legislation.
Tenants have made this issue a priority in many hotly contested ridings. The winners on Thursday must be held to account and we will be pushing fast and hard for meaningful true and permanent reform.
The Tenant Protection Act has been a nightmare for tenants. What will we be waking up to?
For Immediate Release August 28, 2003
The Federation of Metro Tenants Associations is calling on Premier Ernie Eves to place a moratorium on rent increases for 2004.
Under Provincial law, the Province must announce this week the rent guideline for 2004. The 2003 guideline of 2.9% marked the 17th consecutive year that the guideline exceeded the rate of inflation. During the last five years, hundreds of thousands of tenants have experienced even greater increases because of the landlord enriching Tenant Protection Act.
"Tenants have gone through a lot and suffered financial hardship because of high rents" said Dan McIntyre, Outreach Co-Ordinator for the FMTA, "and tenants have also suffered through SARS, West Nile, the power blackout and other misfortunes this year......give us a break from rent increases".
The Federation wants the whole legislation scrapped and replaced with true protection for tenants. A moratorium on increases would be a start.
Gail Nyberg, Hotline Co-Ordinator "Even if it was seen as only a cynical pre-election ploy, the relief is necessary. Too many families are struggling to pay the rent and feed the kids. Too many seniors are seeing an intolerable erosion of their fixed incomes. Too many working people are working more for their landlords than for themselves."
The guideline should be published in the Ontario Gazette this Saturday.
June 3, 2003
A major Toronto landlord is now charging rent to dogs. The Federation has obtained a lease used by Briar Lane Management that requires an extra monthly payment of $250 a month for apartments with dogs.
Pets are permitted in all Ontario apartments, but some tenants will have to pay $3000.00 a year for that right.
Starting rents are not regulated under Ontario's ill advised Tenant Protection Act.
"This is a further exploitation of a bad Act" said Dan McIntyre, Program Co-Ordinator for the FMTA. "What's next - added charges for having children?"
We will be urging any tenant to bring a case forward to have this charge disputed. Meanwhile, we will continue to call for a whole new Act and for fairness for tenants.
Pets are a good thing - exploitation by landlords is not.
We will be making the Government aware of this further bastardizing of their Act.
May 6, 2003
The Federation of Metro Tenants Associations wants to ensure that no SARS victim loses their home.
In a letter to the Minister of Housing, and to the Chair of the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal, the FMTA asked that a directive be issued.
The protection would be for those victims who fall behind in their rent because of being stricken with SARS or because they lose their job because of the disease.
Last week, the Federal Government announced that victims would be protected against mortgage default.
Although the issue has yet to arise at an eviction hearing, the FMTA knows all too well how easy it is to fall behind on escalating Toronto rents.
"There is no need to compound a tragedy by evicting victims" said Gail Nyberg of the FMTA.
March 2, 2003, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tenants at 1595 Bathurst came home to a shock last week, when they found a written decision by the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal awarding their landlord a 14.6% rent increase above the annual guideline.
On January 22, the tenants were told by the Tribunal Adjudicator, Elizabeth Beckett, that she was dismissing the landlord's application, without prejudice. The landlord Donovan McKenzie had failed to properly submit the application or the supporting documents. She referred to the file as a "dog's breakfast" and noted that Tribunal staff could not make sense of the application.
The basis for her "behind closed doors" reverse decision was incomplete information found in the file that indicated that the landlord had paid a dramatic increase in property tax. As she had indicated that the application was being dismissed, the tenants had no need to make submissions or present evidence on this issue. The landlord had indicated on the form that taxes had increased from $9,000 to $22,000 in a one year period.
The building contains eight units and is therefore subject to a 5% cap on tax increases. In other words, such a claim by the landlord would not pass scrutiny.
On Friday, February 28, tenant Martyn Smith went to the Tribunal to ask for a review of the Order and a hearing. He paid the $75 fee required by the Tribunal. He was asked to wait while another adjudicator, Harry Fine, reviewed his request. About two hours later, Mr. Fine sent a staff member to tell Mr. Smith that the request had been denied!
Smith said "I am shocked and outraged that such a decision can be made in Ontario. First they say that there will be no rent increase....they send us home happy...and then out of the blue they change their minds and refuse to give us a hearing".
Dan McIntyre of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations has been helping the tenants throughout. "The file was the worst I ever saw, but the Tribunal reversal and subsequent circling of the wagons is the most outrageous thing I have seen in over 20 years...the Tribunal has acted like a Star Chamber and denied the tenants their most basic rights based on very specious reasoning".
Carol Smith (no relation to Martyn) is a single mother living in the building for several years. "The Tribunal took pity on the landlord ....but what about people like me who will have to find another $145 a month to pay for this pity?".
The tenants will now seek legal help to appeal to a higher court. They will seek a grant from the City of Toronto Tenant Defence Fund to offset their costs.
The Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal was formed to deal with the "Tenant Protection Act". McIntyre charges that their institutional bias against the people they are supposed to protect is unconscionable. Ms. Beckett and Mr. Fine should resign or be fired.
Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.
November 12, 2002, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Now that the Premier has seen the light about his disastrous deregulation policy on hydro, tenants would like him to see the same light about his disastrous anti-rent control policy.
Tenants have seen rents escalate in leaps and bounds since the Tories brought in their ill-titled Tenant Protection Act. Over 60,000 tenants a year have lost their homes because they could not pay the rent. And the market has failed to respond with new units.
Many tenants are on fixed incomes or low incomes. The situation gets worse every year.
Follow the Hydro blueprint, Mr. Eves. Freeze rents until 2006 and rebate tenants who have paid the ridiculous increases that your Government has permitted. For a prime example, over 100,000 rental households in Toronto have been forced to pay a permanent extra increase based on a temporary spike in fuel costs.
You could also direct your Tribunal to disallow all further claims based on utility cost increases. And by the way, make sure that tenants get your hydro rebates. We pay hydro in our rents.
Program Co-Ordinator, FMTA
Friday, August 30, 2002, For Immediate Release
"Tenants will not be fooled by the lower rent increase guideline," the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations said this morning. The Federation is the oldest and largest Tenant Organization in Toronto and in Canada.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is set to announce a 2003 rent increase guideline of 2.9% according to a published report. The figure is lower than last year's guideline of 3.9%, but still higher than the inflation rate which is running at 2.1% for the month of July according to Statistics Canada.
The rent increase guideline is the amount a may annually raise the rent without making an application to the government.
"This is another blow for tenants" said Dan McIntyre, a tenant organizer at the FMTA. "At the end of the day, a rent increase is a rent increase. For working people and those on fixed incomes this announcement simply means they will lose more money."
The average wage increase as reported by Statistics Canada in May is 2.1%, just keeping pace with inflation, but still below the 2.9% guideline to be announced today. Seniors are particularly hard hit. Pensions are already $6500 below the poverty line for the City of Toronto. Increases in the cost of living further deteriorate those meager incomes. There are approximately 185,000 seniors living in rental housing in the city, with almost half paying an average of 58% of their income on rent according to 1996 figures.
Rents in Toronto have increase by about 30% since 1995, the majority of that increase coming after the Conservative government introduced its landlord/tenant legislation, the Tenant Protection Act, in 1998.
The 2002 guideline generated a significant controversy after jumping to 3.9% from 2.9% the previous year. The reason for the increase was a short term spike in the price of natural gas, which raised heating costs in the winter of 2000-2001. Landlords were permitted the extra increase to cover this short-term expense. However, Toronto landlords applied for additional increases beyond the guideline on over 97,000 apartment units, pushing the total rent increase above 10% for many tenants. And since rent increases are permanent, tenants who fully paid for their landlord's heating bill in 2002 will pay for it again in 2003, in 2004 and so on in perpetuity.
Natural gas prices declined 34.6% in 2002 over the previous year according to Statscan.
Residents of 1305 Wilson Avenue recently challenged landlords' ability to receive permanent rent increases for one-time costs. That case was ultimately decided in favour of landlords in a decision released this week, but not before the court ordered the provincial government to take "a second look" at that area of the Tenant Protection Act.
"The fact that the guideline is lower this year is a partial admission by the Government of what we have been saying all along, and what the court told them this week: that the law is unfair," McIntyre said. "But it will take more than fiddling with the numbers to compensate for last year's increases. If the government wants to get serious about fixing this, they must change the entire guideline calculation formula."
The FMTA is also concerned about the timing of the rent increase guideline announcement, coming at the start of the last long weekend of the summer. "It is a concern not just for tenants, but for all Ontarians that this government appears to be developing a habit of making major announcements affecting half the population at times when few people are around to hear," McIntyre said. "We saw it with the nursing home rate increases earlier this summer, and we're seeing it again today."
"There seems to be a desire on the part of the Government to dampen public awareness and discussion of the real social impact of these rent increases. All Ontario taxpayers should be concerned. How are rent hikes going to impact on homelessness and the health of seniors and poor people? There will be significant costs for everyone."
On August 26, The Superior Court of Ontario decided that the landlords of Ontario will be allowed to keep windfall profits due to an temporary increase in gas price. They also ruled that the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal was correct not only to allow the landlord's increases, but that the Tribunal did not have the legal right to rule aginst these as long as the figures the landlord provides in his application are correct.
While the case under appeal concerned 1305 Wilson Avenue, the decsion will affect all tenants whose landlords have made applications for an Above the Guideline Increase due to utility costs.
The Federation responded with a letter hand delivered to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Chris Hodgson stating that enough is enough: change the law!