ROUND I: Legislation
By Daniel Nassrallah
As a lawyer, I always strive to properly understand my clients’ needs, interests, and positions. My job is to then take that information and balance it against the current legal landscape. This is a very sensitive process with some clients, as sometimes the legal reality can be very harsh and not as balanced as the scales of justice would lead you to believe.
The reality is that Landlord and Tenant law in Ontario is both harsh and unbalanced. As a Landlord, this can often sound discouraging and lead to great hesitation to engage in the legal process. But does the law really favour Tenants over Landlords? This three-part blog aims to answer that question.
Let us begin by looking at the legislation. Landlord and Tenant law in Ontario is currently governed by the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (“RTA”), which came into effect on January 31, 2007. However, immediately prior to the RTA, the law in Ontario was governed by the Tenant Protection Act, 1997 (“TPA”). As its name implies, the TPA’s primary objective was to protect Tenants in the province of Ontario, but protect Tenants from what exactly? The answer seems quite simple: unscrupulous Landlords. However, what exactly constitutes an unscrupulous Landlord, and why are unscrupulous Tenants exempt?
Despite its more neutral-sounding name, the RTA continues to protect Tenants from unscrupulous Landlords. This is achieved by placing strict restrictions on when and how a Landlord can terminate a tenancy and evict a tenant, even at the end of the term stipulated in a tenancy agreement. This process is often described as the requirement to fall within a justifiable ground under the RTA in order to terminate a tenancy, and it can then take several months before a tenancy is properly terminated and a Tenant is effectively evicted (even for non-payment of rent). It is further achieved by mandating Landlords to comply with ongoing and stringent maintenance obligations that the RTA categorizes as “responsibilities”, which can be both costly in time and financial resources.
Conversely, a Tenant may simply terminate the tenancy at the end of the term stipulated in a tenancy agreement without the requirement of falling within a justifiable ground under the RTA. Further, while the Tenant has “responsibilities”, this usually involves only keeping the rental unit reasonably clean and free of excess damage—while reasonable wear and tear, such as scratches to walls and floors, is both accepted and expected to the dismay of Landlords.
With that said, is a Landlord “unscrupulous” if he/she simply does not get along with the Tenant and seeks to terminate the tenancy at the end of the term stipulated in the tenancy agreement, in order to regain or obtain peace of mind? Arguably, unless the Landlord resides in the same unit or complex with the Tenant, the RTA would consider such a Landlord to be unscrupulous because “failure to get along” is not one of its justifiable grounds to terminate a tenancy—even at the end of a term stipulated in a tenancy agreement. There is no such all-encompassing definition of “unscrupulous Tenant”, at least not one recognized by the RTA. This harsh and unbalanced process encourages Landlords to manipulate tenancy situations in order to fall within one of the justifiable grounds to terminate a tenancy under the RTA. Arguably, this inadvertently defeats the objective of the RTA to protect tenants from unscrupulous Landlords, as this harsh and unbalanced process is creating or at least propagating the very evil that it is seeking to prevent.
While some would argue that this is an over-simplification of the RTA, I believe it represents a microcosm of its main provisions and the major concerns expressed by Landlords in Ontario.
In my opinion, Tenants have won Round I (Legislation). Let’s see what happens in Round II (The Landlord and Tenant Board).
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Daniel Nassrallah alone and not necessarily those of DNG Law. The opinions do not constitute legal advice or imply that a lawyer-client relationship has been formed between the author and the audience or any audience member in particular. For more information, please contact us directly at 613-523-6277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or consult another licensed lawyer in the Province of Ontario.