by Anna Idzakovic
Tim, a local tenant, recently had his townhouse complex purchased by a new corporate owner. While the new owner toured Tim’s basement unit he mentioned his plans for an upcoming renovation that would require Tim to move out. Feeling hopeless, Tim expressed the current concerns of many tenants, “Who has the time or the money to fight this?" Fortunately, tenants in Ontario do have a considerable amount of legal rights under the Residential Tenancies Act (“RTA”) and there is free legal help available.
The term “renoviction” is being heard more and more in Ontario. It refers to a situation where a landlord attempts to evict a tenant using “major renovations” as their excuse for why the unit needs to be vacant. Many landlords are attempting to use renovictions as an excuse to get tenants out, then do only minor superficial repairs after which they have new tenants move into the unit at a much higher rent.
It is legal for a landlord to ask to evict a tenant on a temporary basis so that they can do necessary major renovations that could not be done while a tenant is residing in their unit. In order to do this legally, the landlord must provide the proper notice and file an application with the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB), following which there will be a hearing scheduled. At the hearing, the landlord will be required to present evidence that the intended work is necessary and requires that the tenant be removed from the unit. They also must provide municipal building permits that reflect the proposed renovations. In the event that the landlord is successful at obtaining the eviction order, the tenant is entitled to receive up to three month’s rent compensation (depending on the number of units in the building) and has the right to re-occupy the unit for the same rent once the work has been completed.
Here are some of the important things tenants should know about their rights when it comes to renovictions:
1. You do not have to move out unless you receive an eviction order from the LTB after a hearing, and the LTB process can take time. A notice from your landlord is not an eviction order.
2. There is a community legal clinic in your area that may be able to provide you with summary advice about your situation for free.
3. Don’t sign any agreements (especially an N11 notice) with your landlord until you’ve contacted your local community legal clinic or spoken to a lawyer or paralegal.
4. Make sure to ask your landlord for any information they may be relying on to support their application at the LTB.
5. File any evidence you may have that the landlord is not acting in good faith at least 7 days prior to the hearing date.
6. If your landlord succeeds with their application, make sure to notify the landlord in writing that you intend to return to the unit following the renovations.
For more information about what a tenant can do in this situation, visit Steps to Justice or contact your local community legal clinic. There is also a duty counsel at the LTB who may be able to assist you on the day of your hearing. According to Linda Tranter, who is both a legal clinic lawyer and acts as duty counsel at the LTB on a regular basis, she has had great success at helping tenants prevent renovictions by providing evidence to the LTB that the landlord is acting in bad faith, and/or by showing that the landlord did not take the required steps prior to bringing their application.
The author, Anna Idzakovic, is a law student at the University of Ottawa who is volunteering at The Legal Clinic through Pro Bono Students Canada. For more information about renovictions, please contact The Legal Clinic at 613-264-8888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.