Eighteen months. That’s how long a Guelph landlord anticipates that his tenant will live in his rental home without paying rent.
Systemic eviction delays, with or without an eviction moratorium, allow tenants to game the system and choose when — or if — to pay rent. Combine that with a landlord who was trying to help out a tenant who appeared to be down on her luck, and you have the perfect storm for sustained income loss.
Before renting the unit, the tenant was living in a shelter. But a kind landlord gave her a break. Then, she complained about the condition of the property and failed to pay rent. This tenant didn’t say she couldn’t pay, only that she was “withholding” payment. The landlord calls it a crushing blow to his faith in humanity. “I will never do it again,” he says, according to this news report.
What is particularly sad about this situation is how the landlord is boxed in. It is currently impossible to evict over unpaid rent. There are no immediate consequences for someone who accepts government assistance yet does not pay their bills or who takes advantage of another person’s goodwill.
Currently, legislation is pending in Ontario that is intended to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants for non-payment, the current eviction moratorium notwithstanding. However, the proposal appears to do little more than require landlords to work directly with tenants to come up with a repayment plan outside the LTB. That’s difficult to do when the tenant is refusing to speak to the landlord or is intentionally delaying rent payments. Even if a deal is reached, the LTB likely will need to approve the agreement, causing additional delays.
The backlog of eviction cases at the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board has sparked an investigation by the province’s Ombudsman, who reported receiving over 100 complaints as of January and another 500 between January 9 and March 31. The office is looking into “systemic factors” for the chronic delays, including the language of tenancies laws, training for adjudicators, funding, and technology. The investigation is ongoing.
But the problem does not rest solely with the LTB. Many tenants have adopted an “us versus them” mentality when dealing with landlords. That attitude was on full display in March and April when the pandemic first emerged. Calls for rent strikes or cancellation of rent obligations came at the worst possible time and quickly spread through the renter community, as landlords grew concerned about staying ahead of their own bills.
While most tenants paid what they could, realizing that eviction would be inevitable at some point, tenant advocate groups continue to support tenants who default on their rent obligations. One such group, located in Guelph, has created a guidebook to instruct tenants on “how to avoid eviction and keep your rent.”
This step-by-step guide is full of controversial tips, like suggesting to tenants that they can continue to live in a property whether or not they are paying rent. It explains that the landlord cannot evict without a hearing, and that the LTB is backlogged for months, so there’s plenty of time to wait out an eviction. Tenants are told to pay up just before the hearing to avoid the eviction and any potential damage to their credit. Those who lose at the hearing can delay even longer by filing an appeal. Tenants who receive government assistance are told how to cancel the direct-pay option for landlords. And should Ontario’s new fast-track eviction legislation go into effect, tenants are encouraged to refuse to work with their landlords or enter into repayment plans because that could speed up evictions. The organization that encourages tenants not to pay rent asks those same tenants to donate money to help other tenants avoid evictions.
As frustrating and costly as these situations are for landlords, there are some strategies that help stave off the resulting income loss. For instance, screening tenants based on both credit and rental history can flag a tenant who has enjoyed living rent-free in the past.
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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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.