New 28 Day Lease Termination under RTA!

The Ontario Government has amended the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to permit some tenants to terminate monthly or fixed term leases on only 28 days’ notice. Landlords are required to keep any information about the notice secret, unless and until the tenant who gave the notice actually moves. Landlords cannot challenge the bona fides of 28 day notices that are properly given. Landlords who do not comply with the secrecy requirements will face substantial fines under the new offence provision added to the RTA. The new amendments take effect September 8, 2016.

A 28 day notice may be given to terminate the tenancy outright or, in the case of, say, spouses who are both named as tenants, to just terminate one spouse’s interest in the tenancy. The social policy behind this amendment is to allow persons who face domestic or sexual abuse, and who are locked into a lease, to be able to break the lease and escape the abuse on short notice. Landlord secrecy is required so that the abusive person will not know of the victim’s plan to leave. The abusive person need not be an occupant or “spouse”: they can be from a class of persons who have the potential to foment many forms of abusive conduct against a tenant at the rental unit. If a tenant gives a 28 day notice, but then decides not to vacate on the 28’th day, the notice is void and the tenancy continues; however, the tenant may then give another 28 day notice if circumstances change: there is no limit on the number of times the 28 day notice may be given.

The notice must be in a “prescribed” form, which has yet to be drafted; however, if the form is properly completed, neither the landlord nor the Landlord and Tenant Board may challenge the bona fides of the notice, at least not until after the tenancy in question is terminated (but by that time there is little point in doing so). The allegations themselves need only consist of an assertion that abuse has occurred. If properly drafted the allegations are “deemed” to be true. If just one tenant of a joint tenancy gives the 28 day notice, once that tenant leaves, any remaining tenants can terminate the balance of the tenancy, regardless of its term, on 60 days’ notice.

While the multi-res industry has consistently supported efforts to stem domestic abuse and harassment, it is obvious to members of the industry that it will be tempting for unscrupulous tenants to use these new provisions to “break” leases with impunity. In addition, if the secrecy requirements are breached by the landlord or its agents/employees, substantial fines may be imposed. Landlords who are given the 28 day notice cannot list the unit for rent and neither the landlord nor any staff can disclose anything about the notice or circumstances giving rise to it other than what is absolutely necessary. These changes were made with virtually no consultation or opposition by the multi-res industry. The take away? Train your staff before September!

Questions? Contact Joe Hoffer, hoffer@cohenhighley.com, Kristin Ley, ley@cohenhighley.com, Mark Melchers, melchers@cohenhighley.com

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