Ford government considering ways to speed up evictions

Premier Doug Ford’s government is looking to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants by slashing the waiting periods for eviction notices and allowing private bailiffs to remove renters, the Star has learned.

Internal government documents show the Progressive Conservatives are considering a proposal to “shorten the waiting period for eviction orders from 11 days to six days” and “allow for private bailiffs” to turf unwanted tenants.

Under the current Bailiffs Act, bailiffs must be appointed by the government and “cannot use force to seize or repossess your things or evict commercial tenants, evict residential tenants (or) execute court orders,” according to the province’s website on tenant rights.

But the Conservative discussion paper reveals Ford’s administration hopes “to streamline the process” as part of an overall strategy to boost the supply of rental housing.

The document suggests the government is aware such plans could be unpopular with renters.

“Tenant organizations would support the current notice provisions as it allows tenants time to pay rent without starting the eviction process,” the paper says.

In a statement, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark’s office confirmed it is working to “develop an action plan to increase the supply of housing in Ontario, which will be announced this spring.

“Creating more housing, of the types and sizes people need, will help make home ownership and renting more affordable and give people more choice,” the statement said.

Last fall, the Tories lifted rent controls on newly created housing units in a move to spur construction, but those on existing units were preserved for tenants.

Queen’s Park is also studying additional changes to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which was recently moved under the umbrella of the new Tribunals Ontario organization that oversees a slew of adjudicative bodies.

“Over half of eviction hearings for rent arrears are not disputed by tenants,” the document says.

“Should the LTB only hold eviction hearings when a tenant wishes to dispute an eviction? What safeguards would ensure tenants receive proper notice? (This) may require mitigation and safeguards to ensure tenants receive proper notice.”

The government is concerned that “some vulnerable tenants … could be disadvantaged by this proposal (e.g. tenants with low literacy, English as a second language, persons with disabilities, elderly, etc.)”

In a bid to expedite proceedings, the province is examining whether there should be a “disclosure requirement in advance of an eviction hearing.”

“Raising new issues at eviction hearings is unfair and leads to delays,” the paper says.

In an interview with the Star’s Tess Kalinowski last fall, Clark said he had been pushing Attorney General Caroline Mulroney to appoint more adjudicators to alleviate the backlog of rental disputes.

“I believe very strongly we need to hear from landlords and tenants. We want to hear from them on a variety of issues. I get a lot of letters from both landlords and tenants’ groups about the tribunal, about the length of time the tribunal takes to make decisions,” said Clark.

“It’s very important that we allow both sides to give the government some advice on how to move forward.”

The thorny matter of cannabis use and cultivation in rental properties is another hot topic in the discussion paper.

“We want to continue to ensure that tenant protections are at the forefront of any changes we consider regarding making it easier for landlords to manage their housing,” the document says.

“Certain behaviours may cause damage to the rental unit and impact the reasonable enjoyment of other tenants in the building (e.g. smoking, cannabis, and direct physical damage).”

To that end, the government is consulting with stakeholders on whether tobacco smoking and cannabis “rules in lease agreements” should continue to be enforceable.

“Tenant advocacy groups have expressed that tenants should have the same rights as homeowners (regarding) cannabis cultivation,” says the paper, referring to the law that allows anyone 19 or older grow as many as four marijuana plants per household.

“However, small landlords have requested to be able to limit problematic behaviours when they live in the same unit as the tenant.”

Article by Robert Benzie for the Toronto Star