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Landlord loophole leaves tenants vulnerable to eviction

It’s a tenant’s worst nightmare, getting evicted and having to look for a new place to rent in Toronto’s hot rental market.

But that’s a reality for hundreds, according to the head of the Federation of Metro Tenant’s Associations, who said landlords are using a loophole to terminate a tenancy based on either they themselves or their family members moving in.

“What’s happening now is a lot of tenants are just being pushed out (based) on this premise that someone is moving in (but) someone is not moving in and the landlord is lying,” Federation of Metro Tenant’s Association executive director Geordie Dent explained.

“Tenants are getting evicted, having to pay way more rent, they’re having to displace their lives. It’s a real problem.”

Though many landlords use this provincial provision for its intended purpose, Dent said it’s increasingly being used in bad faith, with some taking advantage of the competitive rental market and pushing out tenants just to cash in.

“Often times landlords now, because of the way rent control is structured, it doesn’t exist inbetween tenants,” Dent said.

“So if you can kick someone out, you can jack the rent to a million dollars or whatever you want.”

Coun. Gord Perks, who currently sits on the City of Toronto’s Housing and Tenant Committee, is also the city councillor for Parkdale — a neighbourhood that’s seeing vast changes, with residents claiming they are being pushed out by landlords.

“I hear about landlords finding loopholes to push people out of their apartments every week. It’s probably the single constituency problem I deal with most often,” Perks said.

“Right now all of the incentives and all the laws are written in favour of landlords. As a result we’re losing those last few rental properties in the city of Toronto. It’s tragic and scary.”

Perks says Toronto isn’t building as many low income units to keep up with the tenant evictions.

“I’ve got people telling me they’re going to be homeless. I’ve got people telling they’re going to have to move out of Toronto,” he said.

“This is the end of the kinds of neighbourhoods that Torontonions have lived in for decades, where people from all walks of life have lived together.”

The Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, an organization that focuses on major professional rental companies, told CityNews it’s a few bad apples that are giving landlords a bad name.

“The biggest issue here is there’s an obvious solution and that is if there was a lot more supply,” Daryl Chong, interim president of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, explained.

“We should be building thousands if not tens of thousands units a year to catch up with demands.”

In addition to a rental shortage, Chong said condo investment owners are at risk of losing money when maintenance fee increases are higher than the province’s 1.8 per cent rental cap.

“Their sole revenue source is rent (and it’s) going to be up against some difficult times with the hard ceiling on rent increases,” he said.

“Most condominium corporations see about a five per cent increase in operating costs a year.”

Last year, the Liberal government introduced new measures to protect tenants and discourage unlawful evictions. Among those measures, if the tenancy is terminated in bad faith, the landlord could face a fine of up to $25,000.

But advocates say enforcement is oftentimes left in the hands of tenants.

“If you lie to the court and you evict a tenant, the onus is on the tenant to prove that you lied,” said Dent.

“So if you’re just cashing in thousands of dollars, there’s not going to be anything that the court is going to do about that. That’s the issue. It’s a loop hole because you don’t have to prove it.”

Perks said there’s little the city can do in this case, as landlord and tenant issues are governed by the province.

However, he is in favour of more changes to ensure there are protections in place for tenants.

“This is epidemic in the City of Toronto,” Perks said.

“It’s been getting worse and worse. We are very backwards. Toronto is not a great city to be a tenant in and we need much tougher legislation even then the changes that were introduced last year.”

According to Dent, tenants aren’t completely helpless. One of the best options they have is to fight the eviction and not move out, forcing the landlord to them to court.

Some advocates, including Dent, are pushing for Ontario to implement measures, like rent control, that would put a cap on rent increases between tenants and that would deter anyone looking to use this loophole in bad faith.

“A landlord should be able to rent out their building, but they should follow the law, that’s not a radical idea.”

Tenants who find themselves in these positions are encouraged to reach out to the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations. There is also legal aid available at the Landlord and Tenant Board, which residents can access for free.