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Ontario's Tenant Protection Act

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 17 August 1999 00:00

More than a year has passed since one of Canada's most significant changes in housing legislation - significant because the legal amendments were so dramatic and because they affected Canada's most populated province.

Last summer, the Ontario Tenant Protection Act became law. At the time, experts predicted that Ontario tenants, particularly those on fixed incomes or who had limited housing budgets, would become financial prisoners to the new law. Today, many in Ontario would agree with those predictions.

The Tenant Protection Act gave residential tenancy a significant overhaul - its first in 25 years. The legal framework and government support system shifted from regulating rents and favouring tenant security to legislating tenant protection and allowing landlords more leeway.

Those struggling with the "rent or own" dilemma -- either as first-time buyers or as empty-nesters -- must give serious consideration to the Tenant Protection Act when making their decision. The steady wave of first-time buyers intent on leaving the rental world behind is considered by many housing industry watchers to be one of the side-effects of this Act.

The Ontario Tenant Protection Act, allows "vacancy decontrol." When a rental unit becomes vacant, rent-control regulations do not apply. A landlord and a prospective tenant can negotiate the rent and the services to be included, without any government restrictions on the final agreed rent. Once a new tenancy agreement exists, the regulations, including rent control, take effect.

This open-ended opportunity for landlords replaces strict limitations on maximum-allowable rents regulated by the Ontario government. Landlords can now charge whatever the market will bear for a vacant apartment

The Act leaves tenants with a choice. They can stay in their current apartment where the rent will increase by an allowable few percent per year, or they can move and pay the usually inflated going rate plus annual increases.

A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing explained, "Tenants who stay will continue to be protected by rent control guidelines for as long as they want to live in their apartment."

Tenants who are threatened, pressured or intimidated by a landlord who wants them to move out or to pay a higher than legitimate rent can call the new Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal or contact the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Investigation Unit. Protection for unfair eviction continues under the Tennant Protection Act, which allows eviction only for specific violations such as nonpayment of rent or damaging the premises.

The Tribunal resolves landlord-tenant disputes about rent increases at about 20 offices across the province so that evictions and privacy issues do not have to go through Ontario provincial courts.

The Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Investigation Unit, which is not part of the Tribunal, deals with cases of tenants being harassed into moving or paying more than legally-allowable rent increases. If contacting the landlord does not solve the problem, investigation staff may lay charges against the offending landlord who would then have to stand trial in court.

The Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal offers 24-hour information access by calling 1-888-332-3234 or visiting Copies of the Tenant Protection Act are available from Publications Ontario at 1-800-668-9938 or visit the Ontario Government Website at .

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