What To Do When You’re Not Getting Paid in Ontario: Serving an N4 and Submitting an L1

The business of owning rental property includes a very important element in the relationship between a landlord and their tenants. Getting paid the rent. 

You’re a landlord and your tenant’s check just bounced. This is the beginning of what could be a real pain. Believe it or not, many private residential landlords in Ontario aren’t that well equipped to handle the situation and don’t know the legal route to go about addressing it. Part of this is because the process is ridiculously complicated if you’re going the board route. I don’t see how anyone can disagree with this, but if you do, feel free to comment here. I’ve personally done this 3 times since becoming a landlord and came away from the first time feeling like learning how to fly a commercial airliner would be simpler. I wanted to put this together to simplify this process with the Ontario LTB for readers and users alike, because it doesn’t have to be this hard. I just think someone needs to boil it down. That’s why I had a great conversation today with The Terminator. No, not Arnold. I’m talking about April Stewart over at Landlord Legal.

http://landlordlegal.ca/terminator.html

April’s an expert when it comes to this kind of thing, and she’s seen a lot of small landlords in Ontario make a big mistake with the basics when you don’t get paid. Serving an N4 to a tenant in arrears and submitting an L1 to the Ontario LTB is not easy. If it were, she wouldn’t be in business. If you’re not familiar with April – you should be. She dropped some valuable tips through the course of writing this post and she’s a passionate advocate for landlord’s rights.

Ok – first things first. Bookmark this link. This is the page at the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board for termination notices. This is where you’re going to print and use the forms required to address an issue of non payment – not to mention a whole bunch of other stuff. We’re just focusing on what to do when you don’t get paid here though, for now.

1: Reaction and Preparedness with an N4

Whether you’ve received a post dated bum check (which can take up to a few days for you to realize with a bank) or whether the tenant pays you by an agreed date and simply has not given you the rent, it’s important that you’re always prepared. If a check bounces, you need to hop on this right away. If it’s 12:01 a.m. on the second day of the month, and you still don’t have money – you need to react. This is the single biggest mistake landlords will make. Not reacting quickly enough.  I’ll get into this in a little more detail further into this post. You need to fill out two of the N4 forms. One for the tenant, and one for you (for your records). Always fill out two. Here are the other important things you need to do.

  • Know the “termination date“. That’s the date you’ve indicated, according to the law, that acts as kind of a line in the sand. The termination date is: 14 days after the landlord gives you the notice, if you rent by the month or year, or days after the landlord gives you the notice, if you rent by the day or week. As an example. If they pay you on the first of the month, and at 12:01 a.m. on the 2nd of the month you still don’t have your rent, you would list the termination date as the 16th if they rent by the month or year, and the 9th if they rent by the day or the week. Ensuring that the termination date is correctly indicated is hugely important when filling out an N4. Make sure they’re correct.  If you get paid by post dated check, and the bank takes 3-5 days to show the check as NSF – your dates would need to fall in line with this. It’s not retroactive to the first of the month – it’s 14 or 7 days from the service of the notice. If you make an error with dates, the board reserves the right to consider the notice improperly served and you’re back at square one if that happens.
  • Don’t make a mistake with serving the notice. Taping a notice to the door of a unit will get you in trouble and can lead to a dismissal of your application. The best route with this, is to personally drop it off in a mailbox, and record the date of the service of the notice. One of the ways you can do this, is by using the Renting Well logbook (shameless plug) and plugging a scan of your copy into the logbook entry. Keep your copy of the notice as a duplicate. Have a timeline of events. Here’s another few tips courtesy of April Stewart. If the mailbox is shared by other tenants, don’t serve it that way. If the mailbox is only for newspapers and flyers and not Canada Post mail, don’t serve it that way either. You can serve under the door of a unit, as long as the envelope goes all the way into the unit – but whatever you do, don’t open the door and toss it in, as that’s illegal entry! For out of town landlords who can’t serve personally, hire a reputable process serving company, not a fly-by-nighter. If you must serve by regular mail or Express Post, add 5 days to the termination date – another common mistake that will deem your N4 defective if not done right! April recommends NEVER serving via Registered Mail – it’s outdated and tenants tend to refuse the delivery in any event.

At this point, the tenant has either 14 or 7 days to pay you. Let’s just assume they don’t pay you though. Booya. You need an L1.

2. The L1 form – Application to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent and to collect rent the tenant owes

This part kind of sucks, mainly because you need to file with the board and dish out $170 filing fee. The good news is that if you win, the tenant will have to pay that all back to you. Keep in mind, this is if you win a judgement.

The form is relatively straightforward, however, a couple of things to note:

  • You need to submit this application at the least the DAY AFTER the termination date as indicate in your N4. This is super important. If you do it before, you’re back to square one.
  • You need to include your copy of the N4 your served the tenant, as well as your certificate of service for the N4.
  • Make sure your dates are correct, your math is right, and that you’ve signed the form.

I always recommend visiting the LTB office in your city and filing the application personally. Do it in person. Know why? They’ll issue a hearing date and give you the essentials you’ll require to serve your tenant the same day. Otherwise, you’re waiting for it to be processed and then sent to you via the mail – and that’s just a whole bunch of extra days you don’t need tacked onto the whole thing. Here’s a list of the offices in all of Ontario. I’ve experienced the first hand pain in the butt of faxing it in, and then it not being received by the office for whatever reason. Do it in person if you can. If you fax it in, it could take a few days if not longer.

You’ll receive a hearing notice (for both you and the tenant), a receipt of your payment of the filing fee ($170), and a certificate of service – what you’ll need to provide the tenant at least 10 days before the hearing. This is another one of those things where I suggest ensuring the service has been done personally. If you can “give” it to the tenant in person – great. Don’t make a mistake with serving the notice of hearing. Taping a notice to the door of a unit will get you in trouble and can lead to a potential dismissal of your claim. Drop it in the mailbox if you can’t get them in person. Again, If the mailbox is only for newspapers and flyers and not Canada Post mail, don’t serve it that way either. You can serve under the door of a unit, as long as the envelope goes all the way into the unit – but whatever you do, don’t open the door and toss it in, as that’s illegal entry!

Again, the logbook in Renting Well is handy for things like this. Having a timeline of when the payment was late, the serving of the N4, the application of the L1, and ultimately the notice of hearing and the certificate of service in a nice little packet of chronological info with notes is helpful in organization when you do visit the board. Even saving scans of the documents ensures you’re all up to speed in one spot. You don’t have to go by memory, you don’t have to juggle paperwork, and it’s useful when referencing dates.

When the hearing date comes – and assuming your tenant shows up – one of two things is going to happen. You’re going to be offered mediation or you’re going to go into your hearing and sit in front of an adjudicator. If you’re at this point, you’ve followed the steps correctly.

Do you have any stories about an N4 and an L1 in Ontario? Share them!

RCMP Warns Alberta Landlords and Tenants About Kijiji Rental Scam

Came across this informative piece courtesy of the Alberta Landlords Association. The RCMP issued a formal warning to landlords and tenants in Canmore, Alberta about a Kijiji scam. I took special notice of this, because this is the kind of thing that gives landlords a bad name.

Culprits posted ads on the classifieds website Kijiji advertising houses or condos for rent, with all money transactions completed through e-mail. The victims were advised that 24 hours before their arrival, they would receive a pin code to enter the property. But in one case, after thousands of dollars was transferred, all correspondence halted before a pin code could be sent. Further investigation found that the properties were never really in fact for rent in the first place (big surprise).

A similar occurrence was reported in Halifax. Check this out. There’s a nice Soundcloud clip of a rundown of how it occurs courtesy of Scott Simpson with the Halifax Regional Police.

Unfortunately, this has become a common thing. Similar incidents have occurred in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Calgary.

Most of the cases involve a landlord out of town, unable to show the unit, who asks for a damage deposit or first and last month’s rent to be wired to them. Sometimes – as in the case in Calgary listed above, someone has the gall to show up and actually conduct showings on a unit, and then ask for money.

The ALA has some valuable tips to share on how landlords and tenants can avoid getting caught up in these kinds of messes. Tenants should ask to see the property before committing anything financially, and receive a receipt for any monies given. Landlords should make sure tenants know who they are, where the property is, and give a receipt for any rent paid.

Hub Pages posted a nice little ditty on how to avoid getting scammed here. Kijiji has also posted some valuable tips on how to avoid getting victimized here.

Landlord Fumes Over Tenant Damages in Sarnia

Came across this piece in the Sarnia Observer. A local landlord got burned by tenants who had been evicted. I think this really emphasizes the necessity to inspect a unit prior to a tenant leaving as it becomes very difficult to obtain any restitution with the LTB once they’re gone. You can read the article here:

http://www.theobserver.ca/2012/10/18/landlord-fumes-over-tenant-damages

As most Ontario landlords know (or should know), once a tenant vacates a rental property you can’t make an application for damages to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. Jean Guy Lecours, the victim in this case, now faces the only option he has left, which is to pursue damages via small claims court – which will undoubtedly cost a small fortune.

Do you have a story like this? What are your thoughts on Ontario’s landlord and tenant laws?

Ottawa’s Residential Rental Vacancy Rate Climbs to 2.5%

A few days ago, Ottawa realtor Roch St. Georges sent this my way, courtesy of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. It’s the CMHC’s rental market report for 2012. The Ottawa Business Journal also had a nice little piece about it this morning that sums it up. Bottom line – the vacancy rate is up slightly. There’s a few factors at play here, like condos being snapped up by landlords, low interest rates, etc…but the vacancy rate is expected to drop next year.

Here’s a few choice bits from the report…

  • Ottawa’s residential vacancy rate edged in at 2.5 per cent for the year, up from 1.4 per cent a year earlier.
  • The average cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment also increased by two per cent. That’s lower, however, than the 2.3 per cent increase that took place in 2011.
  • An increase in the size of the rental inventory has played a role in the vacancy rate increase, as many of the new condominium units sprouting up across the city are being purchased by investors and rented out.
  • Nationally, Canada’s overall apartment vacancy rate has risen over the past year, with an increased supply of rental units and a slowdown in household formation by Canadians being cited among the reasons.

Read the article at the OBJ here: http://www.obj.ca/Real%20Estate/Residential/2012-12-13/article-3139634/Rental-vacancy-rate-climbs-to-25-CMHC/1

Read the CHMC report here: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/odpub/esub/64423/64423_2012_A01.pdf

Nova Scotia Changes Their Landlord & Tenant Act

Changes are a brewin’ in Nova Scotia. The province has made some amendments (what many landlords and renters consider to be overdue) to their landlord and tenant act that have taken effect November 15th.

Nova Scotia is a bit of a unique landscape for landlords and renters alike. OpenFile published a story in August entitled How To Survive Renting in Halifax – a piece that shone the light on some bad Haligonian landlord situations involving security deposits and issues related to the reasonable enjoyment of some occupied units.  The below is an excerpt from the piece by Lizzy Hill:

At first glance, our city seems like an ideal spot to rent an apartment in. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 2011 was $925, compared with $1,237 in Vancouver and $1,149 in Toronto. And while other cities across Canada recently experienced slight decreases in their apartment vacancy rates, Halifax’s vacancy rates increased from 2.8 per cent in April 2011 to 3.2 per cent in April 2012—people haven’t been snatching up apartments as quickly as they did in years past, so renters presumably have a little more to choose from.

The Residential Tenancies Program sees around 5,000 applications to the director each year—meaning around five per cent of tenant-landlord relationships require dispute/resolution services each year, according to Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations’ spokesperson Susan Mader-Zinck. And those are just the cases that make it through theboard program’s bureaucratic application process.

CBC also published a story back in April of this year about groups of residents who were demanding better conditions on units they’ve been renting, and calling for a crackdown on bad landlords. Yikes.

The first significant change is that renters will now have automatic tenure – or right to tenancy, which means landlords have to provide a reason to evict a resident, and there has to be a hearing. Fixed term leases are an exception to this. Prior to these changes, tenants didn’t have tenure until they’d been living in an apartment for five years – at which point they were considered a long-term tenant and were afforded more rights. In that five years, a landlord could opt not to renew a tenant without reason. Some landlords will view this as a negative implication in the act’s changes, as in effect, it makes evicting tenants who pose a problem more difficult. Another perspective on this is that landlords will be extra particular when choosing a candidate to sign a lease with.

Another big change is that rent can only be 15 days late before the landlord can give a tenant notice that the lease will end. Tenants used to have 30 days under the old act. This is a positive change for landlords to be able to react at the RTP level. Another big change includes giving tenants on fixed-term leases the ability to end their leases early, without financial penalties, for health reasons.

Landlords are now required to give a copy of the Residential Tenancies Act to tenants within 10 days of the lease being signed, the keys being provided, the stated date of move in on a lease, or the move in date itself.

Some of these changes are efforts to address some of the concerns residents have about complaints to landlords resulting in a simple request to leave.

For more information on these changes, check out the following links:

Are you a landlord in Nova Scotia? What do you think of these changes? Share your stories and perspectives here. We’d love to hear them.