The city is known for epic illegal student street parties – also known as FOCO – or “fake homecoming”.
London, Ontario is a party town, evidently. In a classic case of municipal policy clashing with provincial, this month, London city staff suggested to increase the maximum fines for nuisance parties to $25,000. This was in response to an insane illegal street party that flooded a street near Western University with 20,000 revellers in September. That event completely overwhelmed police, sent 57 people to hospital and prompted warnings from law enforcement that future street parties could easily cost a life.
As per the CBC, social media videos that showed students “brewfing” — literally drinking beer while climbing onto roofs and even jumping off them. Emergency services couldn’t access the street that this was occurring on.
Fines are going up, but more importantly, the municipality also proposed amendments to the public nuisance bylaw that would allow the city to pursue tenants — and landlords — to recover costs from cleanup and damage.
“Where an absentee landlord … takes no action to prevent, end, or clean up after a nuisance party, they may be subject to invoicing,”
This is almost as crazy as the parties themselves, at least according to Joseph Hoffer. He’s a lawyer representing more than 600 members that make up the London Property Management Association. His position is that landlords are prohibited from controlling the conduct of their tenants under the province’s Residential Tenancies Act. Some of the more interesting suggestions that city staff have made is for landlords to hire private security, something Hoffer is adamant is illegal.
“The effect of the bylaw is to compel landlords to do something illegal, and that’s repugnant. There seems to be an assumption built into the bylaw amendment that landlords can control the actions of their tenants, and that assumption is fundamentally flawed.”
The committee voted to ask staff to review the bylaw — taking into consideration the legal concerns raised by Hoffer — and report back on May 28. What do you think?
*Photo by Jason Hargrove
Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Housing Peter Milczyn have introduced a new standardized lease in Ontario and guide book, set to begin use by the province’s private landlords and property management companies by the end of April. The government says it will better protect tenants from illegal terms and conditions on leases by simplifying language and making the overall process easier to understand. The associated guidebook will be printed in 21 different languages. The province is making a concerted effort to reduce the number of issues associated with residential tenancies while protecting the interests of tenants and landlords alike. To many who have long complained that the formal process of resolving issues between landlords and tenants has been long winded and complex (me included), this is a step in the right direction. With that said, and as per the Toronto Star, the real reason the province has rolled this out is to protect Ontario’s tenants from what this government considers to be frequent unethical attempts by landlords to get tenants to agree to illegal terms without their knowledge. So…you know. It’s political. This follows new rent control legislation that Wynne’s Liberals introduced last year.
The standard lease is essentially a plain English or French document that would be common to all tenants and landlords across the province, making it very clear and easy for a tenant to understand what it is they are agreeing to.” – Minister of Housing Peter Milczyn
Tenants rights advocates are all over this. Geordie Dent, Executive Director of the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations, characterizes the vast majority, if not every single lease in Ontario, as including something illegal in it. Clauses that don’t allow pets, require post-dated cheques, or stipulate the landlord can give a tenant notice that they have to leave at any time are all void.
“Almost every lease in Ontario, you could find something illegal,” -Geordie Dent/FMTA.
The new lease will apply to residential tenant properties, but not care homes, mobile home parks, land lease communities and most social housing. There might be some exclusions under co-operative housing as well.
Tenants are now entitled to a full month’s rent as compensation if units used by landlords or their families
As of September 1st, the provincial law in Ontario has changed. When a landlord ends a tenancy to have family member move in or for their own personal claimed use, people evicted must receive compensation. Alternatively, landlords can offer tenants another acceptable rental unit. Landlords are also required to express an “intent to occupy” for at least a year. These measures are designed to discourage landlords from converting units into short term rentals or re-renting the units at a higher rent as a result of a hot market, like in Toronto. Breaking any aspect of this new law can garner a fine of up to $25,000.
“When a tenant is evicted through no fault of their own, they are forced to scramble to find new accommodations and cover the costs of a sudden move,” – Housing Minister Peter Milczyn
This has proven to be an extraordinarily busy year of tweaking the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act (formally referred to as the Rental Fairness Act), courtesy of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government. The changes are an element of her housing plan announced this spring, which included expanding rent controls to all rental units in the province, not just those built before 1991, per the previous rule.
It’s safe to say that landlords aren’t exactly happy about these new rules, especially in a city like Toronto where the vacancy rate has been hovering at about 1%. There is significantly more demand than supply.
“This will have a very significant impact on small landlords and a very significant impact on condominiums,” – Jim Murphy/Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario.
Regardless, tenant advocates have been reporting wide spread abuse of the N12 form in the highly sought condo market in Toronto, and many are welcoming this change.
I don’t get it. Naheed Nenshi told Calgary’s landlords to be “ethical” last week and not gouge tenants. Ok fine. Now -Toronto mayoral hopeful Olivia Chow is on the campaign trail saying she’s going to introduce stiffer measures for bum landlords who don’t maintain their properties. Some of the things that bother her are broken light fixtures, peeling paint, and bedbugs. It bothers her so much that she wants to create a city task force of sorts, that would issue display grades – much like they do for restaurants – on rental properties. Yeah because landlords in Ontario don’t have it tough enough already. Can anyone sense my sarcasm?
While negligent and reckless landlords should unreservedly be penalized and dealt with, I think it’s important to remember that Ontario (Ms. Chow is running for mayor of Toronto) is a province with legislation that is very tenant friendly. While the system isn’t perfect – it’s the one we have. Tenants have as many applications to make to the Ontario LTB as landlords do. They have remedies. The Ontario act is also very clear in terms of what landlords are required to do and what they’re required to provide. Every province – and as indicated this month on the blog, even every state – is different. Toronto, and the greater province of Ontario, does not need yet another layer of bureaucracy or a grading system.
There are bad landlords. George Woolsey comes to mind. They’re not fair, they don’t follow the law, and they have little to no concern about your well being. Flop houses and housing environments that are hazardous and not suitable for residence need to be handled. Everyone is entitled to live in a habitable and safe environment – BUT – I don’t think this warrants an election plan from a mayoral hopeful. Just like Naheed Nenshi – Olivia Chow is suggesting that something needs to be done on a municipal level about this in Toronto.
Like with most things, there is always good and bad, but it’s important to remember that there are also bad tenants. I don’t think Ms. Chow is labelling all landlords as “bad”, but I think she’s proposing something on the election stump that has the capacity to indirectly just make it harder for the majority of landlords in Ontario that are reasonable, responsible, and solid. The only good laws are the ones that are balanced and strike harmony between all of the interests in the mix. As much as I strongly dislike some of the aspects of Ontario’s act, on it’s face, it’s generally balanced. It is however the epitome of a “second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chance” kind of legislation and isn’t necessarily fair for landlords in many cases. It’s pretty easy to game the system and exploit a situation in the nation’s most populous province. Making money or even breaking even isn’t exactly easy here.
Mayors should be less concerned about trying to admonish landlords. That’s not their job…and there has to be an easier way to address properties not fit for habitation – if it’s in fact enough of a problem in Toronto that an elementary grading system needs to be introduced – than making our job harder than it already is.
Questions? Comments? We wanna hear ’em!