After years of pressure from tenants and tenant advocates the Ontario government has finally taken important steps to protect the rights of tenants. These actions could go a long way in tackling the affordable housing crisis in our province.
The Rental Fairness Act (Bill 124) addresses issues that are vital to ensuring tenants’ right to safe, adequate and affordable housing. Bill 124 was passed unanimously on May 18, 2017. There are many good things in this proposed legislation that will be of benefit to tenants.
- The 1991 exemption will end. That is the exemption that applied to properties occupied by tenants living in rental units that were first occupied for residential purposes after 1991. These tenants will no longer be forced out by the landlord’s unlimited right to raise the rent at the end of each lease term.
- Effective April 20, 2017, landlords cannot raise rents more than the rent increase guideline. This year that the guideline is 1.5 per cent. Any rent increase notices above this amount given on or after April 20 must be reduced to 1.5 per cent.
- A new standard lease form will be introduced. That means tenants will be protected from leases with illegal and misleading clauses. As tenants know too well, these leases are routinely used by landlords to misinform tenants about their rights and obligations.
- Rules for evictions will be tightened up in the area of “landlord’s own use.” These new rules are intended to discourage false claims of landlord’s own use. The changes should end the punishment of good tenants, often victims of no fault evictions & displacement from their communities.
- Above Guideline Rent Increases (AGIs) will be limited. This should keep housing affordable for more tenants.
As tenants will pay for any increases in utility costs in the following year as they are included in the Consumer Price Index, which the annual guideline is based.”
- Landlords will no longer be able to pursue former tenants for unauthorized charges.
Housing Minister Chris Ballard called it “a good day for tenants in this province.”
We agree. But there is still more to be done.
Hundreds of thousands of people remain on waiting lists for social housing and much of the existing social housing stock is in a bad state of repair. The province’s work is not complete.
Bob Wood is a Community Worker at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.