What’s New For 2016? Landlords Be [A]ware
Rent Control Bulletin – December 2015
An important legislative change which will affect multi-res landlords in Ontario is set for implementation by the Province in 2016. Specifically, it is a proposed amendment to theResidential Tenancies Act (RTA) to allow tenants to terminate a tenancy on 28 days’ notice. This legislative change to the RTA is tied to the Provincial Government’s laudable initiative to assist victims of domestic abuse; however, its imposition on operators’ of multi-residential housing has more to do with “optics” than with reality.
The new provision will allow a person who claims to be experiencing domestic abuse to terminate their tenancy on 28 days’ notice to the landlord, regardless of the term of tenancy and regardless of when the 28’th day falls. It will also: require the landlord to refrain from showing the unit to prospective tenants until after vacant possession is given; will make it an offence for a landlord (or landlord’s staff) to disclose any information about the termination to anyone; will impose substantial fines if such disclosure is made; will allow the person giving the notice to rescind it if the tenants reconcile or change their mind about termination prior to giving vacant possession of the rental unit; and, will allow other occupants to remain as tenants after the victim leaves.
In canvassing the issue with practicing Paralegals who have processed thousands of landlord applications, we found no instance of landlords pursing victims of domestic abuse where they have vacated a rental unit in order to escape such abuse: in other words, the giving of proper notice of termination of a tenancy in cases of domestic abuse is not a real issue for landlords or for tenant victims of abuse, but it is one of “optics” for the current government.
The liabilities the proposed legislation will create for landlords are significant. For example, tenants who wish to break their leases prior to the end of a fixed term or month to month tenancy need only assert that they are a victim of domestic abuse and give a 28 day notice, in which case, the landlord is unable to challenge the assertion; must maintain secrecy about the termination; and, cannot make an effort to re-rent the unit until it is vacated, all the while not knowing whether the unit will actually be vacated, since the parties may reconcile and decide to stay.
Landlords will need to rigorously train staff in how to handle situations where 28 day notices are given because an inadvertent or careless disclosure by staff or a property manager may result in substantial fines imposed on the landlord. In the meantime, landlords will also have to absorb the costs associated with the turnover of the unit; the inability to show the unit prior to the tenant leaving; and, the inevitable delay between the time the unit is finally shown to a new prospective tenant and the date the new tenancy can begin. Stay tuned for the final draft of this legislation in 2016.
As this is our last Bulletin for the year, all of us in the Residential Tenancies Law group at Cohen Highley will take this opportunity to wish all recipients of this Bulletin a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year!
If you would like to view our other articles and bulletins on issues surrounding residential tenancies, they can be found here.