Prohibiting eviction through fraud

One of the reasons why Toronto’s housing market is such a disaster is that landlords are basically immune from any mechanism for punishing them for misconduct.

They can abuse the ambiguity of the Residential Tenancy Act to baselessly refuse to assign someone new to a lease, as a way of forcing existing residents to leave or accept an illegal rent increase.

There is also widespread reporting on abuse of mechanisms that let a landlord evict a tenant for their own use of the space or similar reasons. I have personally — and had friends — threatened with eviction for a wide range of trivial or invented reasons, all as a pressure tactic to add stress and try to illegally force people from their homes.

The Landlord and Tenant Board system is completely jammed up, with even the most urgent hearings taking 8-9 months to happen (and then they may be inconclusive, leaving everyone waiting again).

One remedy that could improve things would be a criminal offence for evicting a tenant through fraud or abuse of process. Theoretically a mistreated tenant could sue for damages, but it’s hardly likely that someone scrambling for a place to survive would accept those legal fees and risks. Having a criminal offence would create a real stick to discourage and prevent landlord misconduct, slightly rebalancing power relations in order to make the law work more as written and less as words to be ignored and misused by those driven only be the desire to collect as much rent as possible.

Creating a criminal offence is justified for at least three reasons. Even good tenants who follow the law and pay their rent may face daily and severe stress from the knowledge their landlords are trying to get rid of them illegally. I have been personally and seriously stressed about housing, often to the point of losing sleep, almost every day since the crisis with my flatmate at my old place began years ago. Even with the extreme stress of a PhD program to compare with, Toronto’s housing market is worse.

Taking away someone’s home is a very serious matter, which is why we regulate housing so much in the first place. If the existing system cannot contain landlord misconduct, there must be one with more coercive power against them. Secondly, there is extensive evidence that this misconduct is widespread, if not routine. A significant change is needed to disrupt a rotten status quo. Finally, the potential monetary rewards for landlord misconduct are huge, especially when it has become normalized throughout the system. Only a strong counterbalance has a chance of blunting the incentive for landlords to profit through illegality and misconduct.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

5 thoughts on “Prohibiting eviction through fraud”

  1. Isn’t the problem political influence instead of the specific rules and laws? Landlords get supported because they are rich, old voters. Renters are poor and vote less.

  2. However, the LTB’s lack of enforcement has resulted in landlords skirting the rules, refusing to let old tenants return in favour of accepting new tenants who will pay more for the same units, said Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations.

    “The reason we are losing these affordable units is that landlords are often committing eviction fraud and jacking the rent,” Dent said.

  3. “Of the 13 fines issued by Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board to landlords for bad faith evictions since 2020 — only four have been paid, the board says.

    And some legal experts say not only is lack of payments another sign that the system isn’t working to prevent bad faith evictions amid the housing crisis — but that paltry fines are a drop in the bucket for some landlords, whether they are paid or not.

    “If the landlord happens to get slapped with [a fine] it’s sometimes considered just the cost of doing business,” said Benjamin Ries, a lawyer and the executive director at South Etobicoke Community Legal Services.

    CBC obtained the number of fines issued since January 2020 and their amounts from the board last month. Most of the 13 fines issued by the end of September 2023 amounted to less than $5,000 per landlord. Two were for $10,000.

    Those fines fall far below the maximum of $50,000 for bad faith evictions under the Residential Tenancies Act, the provincial legislation that outlines tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities.

    The board provided data this week showing only four of the fines have been paid. Another four have been sent to collections for non-payment and five others have been “initiated,” meaning the fine has not been paid but has not yet been sent to collections. “

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