Under the Cover of COVID – Renters Beware

To the Editor:

The last time I wrote one of things, it was about how we really need a public inquiry into why so many COVID deaths have occurred in private long term care homes and how Premier Ford has short-circuited independent investigation. Four times more people have died in privately-run homes than those run by municipalities.

Now Mike Harris’ Chartwell Homes (he’s Chair of the  Board) is planning to waive the 14-day isolation requirement for new residents to its retirement facilities. But some of its buildings also house long term care nursing beds. Apparently, Chartwell is losing money due to COVID and this is to attract more customers.

Between millennials partying like there’s no tomorrow and private nursing home execs hawking their services, this pandemic is going to be with us for a while.

But there are other things going on under the cover of COVID.

The Tories passed a law affecting renters in July 2020. In true bureaucratic doublespeak, the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act does neither. Here’s what it does do …

  • Landlords can give tenants a take-it-or-leave-it repayment plan to catch up on arrears. If you can’t repay it, you could be evicted without a hearing. You have only ten days to file a motion to set aside an eviction order and request a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
  • Landlords now have 12 months to bring former tenants to the Landlord and Tenant Board for damages or arrears. The Board assumes the landlord will notify the tenant – which may or may not happen. But if you don’t attend, the Board will issue an Order against you.
  • Tenants can still talk about issues that concern them at the Board, such as the lack of needed repairs. But you are now required to provide written notice to your landlord if you plan to do so.
  • If a tenant learns that a rent increase is illegal, they can appeal the increase to the Landlord and Tenant Board for a period of up to 12 months. After that, you’re stuck with the new rent.

The new law comes into effect just as Ontario’s ban on evictions ends. There is a huge backlog of notices at the Landlord and Tenant Board that the Board is now beginning to send out.

The changes require tenants to be legally savvy or to get legal representation. So if you’re in, or about to get into a dispute with your landlord, you might want to seek advice from your friendly neighbourhood law office like the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic in Owen Sound.

Legal aid clinics are starting to get more requests for advice on housing issues, including evictions. But the Ford government has diminished community legal services with its Smarter and Stronger Justice Act (another triumph of doublespeak). Clinic budgets were cut and their services constrained.

The homeless tents are already going up in Toronto parks. Expect to see more of them before winter sets in.

David McLaren