TORONTO, May 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In the middle of a pandemic crisis, the Ontario government made a sudden decision to revive their makeover of landlord-tenant law, Bill 184 “Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community”. The only tenant protection in this Bill is in the title as it allows tenants to be easily displaced from their communities and driven deeper into debt.

“Similar to the decision to ignore the crisis in long-term care, this Bill is an extremely short-sighted approach to a long-ignored and pressing social problem,” says Kenneth Hale, the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario. “The pandemic crisis has deepened tenants’ vulnerabilities and Bill 184 fails to provide a clear plan to protect tenant homes when this pandemic crisis subsides.”

Bill 184 has increased fines for landlords that decide to evict good, rent-paying tenants and slightly changes some rules at the Landlord and Tenant Board to make it easier to be a landlord. It also adds a massive caseload of debt collection to the Landlord and Tenant Board’s workload. These changes will not protect tenants and will only make tenants more insecure. Bill 184 threatens whatever justice the Landlord and Tenant Board has been able to provide.

We urge Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to act in the public interest and re-write this bill. The protections that tenants need during the pandemic crisis and post-pandemic recovery must include:

  1. The continued restriction of evictions to urgent cases where public safety is at stake.
  2. Restricting rent increases to maintain current rents, which already are unaffordable for nearly half of Ontario’s tenants.
  3. Eliminate rent increases in newer units that are exempt from rent regulation as of November 2018.
  4. Limit rent gouging by landlords by restricting rent increases between tenancies.
  5. Ensure that the Landlord and Tenant Board’s rules make ongoing preservation of homes the object of the dispute resolution processes.

Government programs are available to support businesses and can be expanded to help small landlords. Vulnerable tenants cannot afford to shoulder that cost. “Protecting public health must take priority over protecting the financial wealth of property owners,” says Mr. Hale. “Putting tenants in jeopardy of homelessness and increased poverty is cruel, and puts the lives of all Ontarians at risk.”

About Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) is a specialty community legal clinic with a province-wide mandate to advance and protect the interests of tenants living on lower incomes. ACTO specializes in housing issues related to tenants. The clinic also coordinates the Tenant Duty Counsel Program (TDCP) across Ontario, which provides legal information and assistance to self-represented tenants appearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.