A recent opinion piece in HuffPost Canada suggests adding tenants’ rights to the curriculum for high school students.
That’s an excellent idea, but it doesn’t go far enough.
According to the article, Ontario currently is running a pilot program in the secondary schools to introduce financial literacy. But a criticism of that program is that it emphasizes homeownership rather than incorporating the reality that most people will rent before purchasing their own home.
Citing two cases against landlords — one involving a fire and another a landlord who double-dipped on rent — the author defends a one-sided approach of teaching students to stand up to unscrupulous landlords.
Other recent tenant advocacy efforts, like Ontario’s new mandatory tenancy agreement, also are strong on tenant rights but come up short on tenant responsibilities.
That’s not a realistic view of the rental world. A contract is a two-way street.
Understanding financial responsibility goes well beyond “how to call a landlord’s bluff.” It involves establishing a reputation. Tenants must understand that damaging someone else’s property causes financial loss — for the tenant. Failing to pay rent is a legal liability that ruins a person’s credit and references. That’s going to hurt the next time the tenant attempts to secure a rental home — or a car loan, or a mortgage. Yet, according to the 2017-18 annual report of the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board, of the 80,791 applications for dispute resolution that were filed that fiscal year alone, 59% — roughly 47,666 claims — were for nonpayment of rent.
Focusing solely on tenants’ rights only hurts tenants by creating a false sense of entitlement and the mistaken belief that private landlords are not allowed a fair return on their investments. The lesson learned will be that bullying landlords out of business increases rents and lowers vacancy rates.
Knowledge is power and educating renters is a good thing — something that many landlords would welcome because it takes the burden off them of explaining every intricacy of a tenancy to inexperienced renters.
But students need to see both sides to get the whole picture. After all, some of them will be landlords one day.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.