TENANTS – A NEW EVICTION TRICK BY SOME LANDLORDS

Landlord and Tenant Disputes

Our office receives calls from Tenants who are bewildered after getting an eviction notice when they never got invited to a Hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board.  They ask me if it is legal to do this.  My answer to this as always, is “it depends”.

I will often ask the Tenant if anything had taken place between them and the Landlord recently.  Was there a Board appearance, a mediation, or did they sign an agreement to terminate (N11)?  We have been told by Tenants that their Landlords put them to duress to sign a form to say they will move by a particular date.  Many Tenants are not aware of what these Forms are.  When I ask them if they signed any forms, they often say, “Yes, I did.  Did I do something wrong?”.

No.  As a Tenant, you did nothing wrong.   You probably did not know what you were signing.  Many Tenants have not planned to move from their rental units before their Landlords came in to get them to sign.  One concern is if the Tenant does not in fact leave by the date set in the form, they can be evicted.  There will be no Hearing.  There will be no opportunity to present their side of the issue to the Board.

What is an N11?  Do I have to sign one if my Landlord asks?

An N11 Form is an Agreement to Terminate a Tenancy.  This Form is useful with the new Standard Lease that is in place, especially when something unexpected happens.  A new job in a different City.  An acceptance to a university in a different province.  A Tenant gets married and wants to move in with their new spouse.  This Form is intended to give Tenants and Landlords an option to “break” a lease and allow the Tenant to move on.

Landlords are not supposed to use these Forms to address “buyer’s remorse” over a Tenant they just rented to.  Many Landlords might want to jack up the rent.  They may want to move a friend or other family member in.  Or they may simply want a way around creating vacant possession in order to sell their home.

As a Tenant, you do not have to sign ANYTHING your landlord gives you.  If you are on a fixed term lease, you do not have to move.  Your Landlord cannot accuse you of anything solely on the basis that you did not sign the N11.  They cannot get you evicted because of this.

Why is this Becoming an Issue?

Under the previous government’s Rental Fairness Act, S.O. 2017, it is more difficult for Landlords to use older tricks to get tenants to leave.  If a Landlord wants to move him or herself or family members into the unit, they have to actually move in the unit and to stay there for at least a year.  They must also pay the vacating Tenant a month’s rent in compensation.  Prior to these changes, Landlords can just serve an N12, wait until the Tenant leaves and then simply double or triple the rent.

Similarly, Landlords have done “renovictions”, which include serving an N13, with 120 days’ notice.  Once the Tenant leaves, a fresh coat of paint is put on the walls and the landlord will then jack the rent up.  Both of these tricks still take place, but Landlords know tenants are becoming wise to them.  Today, an N13 must be work that involves the requirement of a city permit and to a larger extent, cannot be completed while a tenant is residing in the unit.  There are rights to compensation and to reclaim the refurbished unit after completion in many cases.

How Can I Protect My Tenancy?

Many Tenants live in low cost rental units that were obtained quite some time back when rents were cheaper and housing easier to find.  As long as you remain a Tenant in your current rental unit, with some exceptions, your rent cannot increase apart from annual guidelines which are fixed to inflation.  The Rental Fairness Act, S. O. 2017 also extended rent controls to tenanted units that were built or used for residential tenancies to the present day.  Prior to this change, any rental unit built or used as a rental unit for the first time after 1991, was not subject to rent control.

Our new government has turned some of that around, whereby any new rental units built after November 2018, or used for the first time to rent to tenants (such as a Landlord that starts renting their basement unit for the first time) will not be covered by rent control.  If you are in a rent-controlled unit, stay where you are.  If you recently moved into a rental unit, you must have a Standard Lease and your tenancy is protected for the term of the lease.

Finally, if your Landlord suddenly asks you to sign something … anything … do NOT sign it.  If you are unsure of what it is, take the document to a legal professional to advise you about your options.  If you had already signed something and received an eviction notice in the mail, it is even more important for you to contact our office to help you fight to continue your tenancy.

CONTRACT PARALEGAL OPPORTUNITY

Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation is growing again …

We have a Contract Paralegal Opportunity

MUST BE
Licensed and in good standing with Law Society of Ontario

Able to work out of our downtown St. Catharines office

Comfortable with the use of technology

Can work as part of Team and enjoy a relaxed environment

Possess strong drafting skills and can meet tight deadlines

Be willing and able to market the firm and its work

Able and willing to back-up Reception/Front Desk duties

Understands our ethical and regulatory standards in terms of confidentiality, conflict of interest and client service

ASSETS:

Experience and/or knowledge in the areas of Provincial Offences, Highway Traffic Act and Summary Criminal Offences

Skills and knowledge in marketing

Fluent in other languages

To apply, please e-mail your resume, cover letter and a sample of your writing/legal arguments to ceo@legaladvocacy.ca on or before

Friday, Aug 30/19.

No telephone calls please.  Those being considered will be contacted for an interview.

Avoid Costly Errors at Your Next Eviction Hearing

What Often Happens at Hearings

I sit as an observer at the Landlord and Tenant Board.  I often do this when waiting for one of our firm’s cases.

Today’s hearing blocks were for matters of arrears of rent.  On rent arrears days, landlords often try to do ‘self-help’.  That is, I see many of them struggle, getting frustrated with the process and hurriedly filling out forms.  Despite their best efforts, the hearing officer often turns them away.  Many things can go wrong in an application process.  When this happens, a landlord can be denied their eviction and lose even more money.

Most adjudicators are well meaning and attempt to ensure that parties before them get heard.  Today, the adjudicator at the Board spent most of his time explaining to the landlords what they did wrong.  He advised them how to correct it and why it is necessary to do things in a certain way.  I found him to be kind and gentle in his approach, although those appearing before him likely felt on edge.  His main point is that some errors can be fatal.

Common Fatal Errors in Your Eviction Application

Your Initial Notice to the Tenant is the Most Vital Step in Your Case

Errors can occur in different stages of the eviction process:

First, there is the original notice.  The notice is the most important part of your eviction process.  It is important that your notice to your tenant be filled out correctly.  Many landlords want to retain us to represent them at the hearing, but upon reviewing their notices, I immediately see a problem.  The math is added incorrectly.  Allegations are poorly spelled out and are not specific enough to meet the requirements of Ball v Metro Capital.   Specific infractions of the Residential Tenancies Act are not identified.  It is not enough to know what box to check off, but why.

Using the Correct Termination Date

Second, the timing may be wrong.   It makes a difference for the termination date, depending on how the notice is delivered to the tenant.  Even one less day than required, the notice can be void.  The law allows you to file an application with the Board after a certain number of days.  However, if the tenant stopped doing the offending act or paid all of their rent by the termination date in the notice, you cannot apply to the Board.  Many landlords have experienced this, but still want to evict their tenants anyways.  They often ask me if there are other ways to do this.  Sadly, no (unless the rent falls again into arrears or the tenant’s offending behaviour starts again).

Do Not Try to Use the N12 or N13 Unless You Really Mean It

Third, the notice may be in bad faith.   Are you really going to move into that rental unit, or move a family member there?  You may be aware there has been a crackdown of sorts on issuing N12 notices for personal use.  If you tell your tenant you are going to be moving in, you better be doing so, or there can be heavy penalties including a fine from the Board.  Seek legal advice if this becomes an issue in your case.  It is important to do this right, so if this is in your plans, your legal advisor can ensure you will be able to do this.

Know When and How to Fill Out the Application

Fourth, mistakes can be made in the application.  If you are claiming arrears, there has to be clear connection between the amount stated on the notice and the amount on the application.  Don’t worry if your hearing is scheduled for the following month.  You can update the Board at the time you appear before them.  A common error is that landlords forget to bring a completed L1/L9 Update Form to the Hearing, or they complete them wrong.  This form is an important part of your evidence and your eviction will not be carried out without a properly completed form.

Fifth, if you are granted an eviction and your tenant has not moved out, you can only enforce it through employing the Sheriff at your local courthouse.  At this point, we cannot use private bailiffs for residential evictions.  The Sheriff’s office will give you a time and date when he/she will be at the property to carry out the eviction.  You are advised to bring a locksmith and to secure the premises after the tenants are led out of the unit.

The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice

Because of the large numbers of landlords attempting to appear before the Board on their own, and having their evictions denied, it is important that they seek legal help.  The Board may appear to be easy to navigate on your own, but many have found issues along the way.  Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation has an active team of paralegals that can guide you through the process to ensure you maintain full control of your property and minimize your losses.

 

The New Standard Lease for Residential Tenancies- Additional Terms for use

How the Standard Lease came to be….

The New Standard Lease, a solution in search of a problem, came into being April 30, 2018.   For most folk in the industry, Landlords and Tenants alike, this was not an issue. It wasn’t a pressing issue, it just wasn’t an issue at all. Industry players and pundits alike were take aback by the introduction of a new industry wide lease. That is because any lease or tenancy is, and
was, subject to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and the rules therein. In practical terms,  every tenancy within the RTA was subject to the same rules, regardless of the language in the individual lease agreements. The RTA is the one ring that rules them all.

So why a new lease? Are there any benefits to this new lease? Doesn’t it resolve issues that weren’t previously addressed? And, most importantly, how can Landlords and Tenants use it to assist themselves? Read more… “The New Standard Lease for Residential Tenancies- Additional Terms for use”

Workplace Bullying/Harassment: What Is It and What Can You Do?

 Introduction

If you are reading this, you might be wondering if what you are experiencing can be considered “workplace harassment” or “workplace bullying”. Most of us heard about it discussed in the news, reports of people getting charged with harassing somebody they worked with, or heard others complain about getting “harassed” at work. Maybe you are experiencing something at work or in your workplace that is bothering you, worrying you or creating a major sense of tension. First, let’s review what workplace harassment is.

What Workplace Harassment Is and What It Is Not Read more… “Workplace Bullying/Harassment: What Is It and What Can You Do?”

The Art of Written Communications with the Court

or
Why you want to hire Browne and Associates Legal Services Prof Corp to draft your claim/defence/motion!

Pleadings are often mentioned in legal proceedings, mostly giving rise to a perplexed look from the individuals involved in pursuing the legal action. What is a “pleading” and why does it matter? Do you want one, and what type of pleading works best? What do you want to say to the Court and how do you say it? Read more… “The Art of Written Communications with the Court”

Why use Paralegals? Should Paralegals be in Family Law?

At the present time, paralegals are not involved in Family Law matters.  However, an ongoing crisis has been noted in Family Law,  approximately 60% of people in family court have no legal representation. At their most vulnerable, the legal system is failing the average person in Ontario.  In response, the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada sought assistance from Madame Justice Bonkalo in considering whether persons other than Lawyers, i.e. Paralegals, should be providing legal services in Family Law.  Justice Bonkalo’s report has caused a stir in the legal community, consisting of 21 recommendations including the recommendation that Paralegals, properly trained, be permitted to provide some services in Family Law.  A link to that report is here.

Attached is a brief video clip from Bruce Parson’s recent appearance on Get Legal Milton Cogeco, where I discussed the issue with gracious host Samantha Glass, special nod to technical wizard Anthony Luongo. He did what he could to make me look good, no easy task!

Choosing the Advocate that is Right for You

How Do You Find Information About a Lawyer or Paralegal?

So, you decided to hire a legal professional.  This is a daunting task.

First, check to see that your legal professional is listed in the Law Society of Ontario directory.  If their name is in the directory, they are licensed with the Law Society of Ontario and are able to provide you with legal advice or legal services.  If their name is not listed, they are not licensed and likely not authorized to provide the services you are seeking.

Second, check the website of your prospective choice.  How much information does the website provide?  Is there a contact number?  Are there office hours?  Does there appear to be a physical office?  Does the prospective hire provide legal advice or legal services in the areas of law that you need help with?  Their website should state clearly what types of issues they could help you with.

While it is not necessary to have a physical office, the Law Society of Ontario does have specific requirements for those who choose to work from home or in shared office space.  Short term or hourly rental spaces, such as Regus or Zemler “office in a box” boardrooms, do support occasional meetings for a legal professional meeting with you in your community.  However, such space may not be appropriate for a long-term relationship.  Legal professionals are obligated to maintain strict confidentiality of your records (e.g. a locked filing cabinet, password-protected clouds), as well as to provide a consultation area that is free of distractions.  It should be a space that nobody else regularly enters or has a reason for being in.  Further, not having a physical office limits the way you can interact, drop off documents or meet with your professional in an emergency or urgent situation.

Your prospects website should provide the areas of law that they work in.  If your prospect’s website simply states, “we handle matters in small claims court“, it is not enough.  What kinds of small claims matters can you bring to this person/firm?  Does your prospect offer help with employment situations?  Is the person familiar with construction contracts, such as a ‘renovations gone bad’ type of case?  How about your prospect’s experience in filing claims against an insurance company, such as when your house insurer declines your claim after your roof blew off?

Meeting with Your Legal Professional

Third, how does your prospect present themselves?  Are they boastful of early achievements?  Do they compare themselves with other legal professionals?  Are they dressed so they could hurry off to the nearest night club after meeting with you?  Do they look like they just finished up a paint job at their house and are interrupting that job to meet with you?  Are they playing with their smart phones at any time in your consultation, or do you notice their computer screen opened up to Facebook or Twitter?

Fourth, what is the state of their meeting space?  Many legal professionals meet in private boardrooms or empty offices in their physical location to ensure that your comfort and confidentiality is held in top regard.  Their own offices may be filled with paperwork to the brim, which is not an ideal client meeting space.  Your meeting with your prospective professional should not include the presence of open files, documents, or even closed files piled up on the desk or board table.  If space is an issue, your professional should place these files behind them on the floor or on a shelf outside your view before meeting with you.

Fifth, how does your prospective professional communicate with you?  At the Initial Meeting, they should mostly listen and steer the discussion with questions to help understand the legal issues you are bringing them.  The type of communication style one client prefers may differ from the next.  However, in most cases, your prospective representative should be knowledgeable about your issue, non-judgmental and be willing to explore a number of options that can help you arrive at the right place.

The Importance of Trust, Professionalism and Being Upfront

It is important to identify your goals with your legal representative when you meet with them.  While we are trained for court and often love to litigate, taking everything to court is not always in the client’s best interest.  A good legal professional would ensure that going to court is a last resort, while at the same time securing a strong legal settlement that may not be perfect but would meet your needs.

Your legal professional should be able to discuss fees in a straight forward manner.  There are different ways that fees are charged to clients at Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation.  There are hourly fees, which are usually limited to research and possibly a limited scope retainer.  A limited scope retainer is when you need help with some of your case, but not all of it, such as drafting a claim.

There are also block fees where each step in a legal proceeding has a flat rate, as well as a monthly retainer fees for ongoing actions that a client may not be able to fund upfront.  Many times, your legal professional will ask for a certain amount of money upfront.  If they do, this money must by law be placed into a trust account and not disbursed to themselves until: (a) work is partially or fully completed; and (b) invoiced.

It is important that you have a trust level with your lawyer or paralegal.  You should be comfortable telling him or her anything that you feel is relevant to the case you are bringing to them.  You should also feel that you are not being judged.  Many people involved in traffic or criminal cases feel badly, but a professional’s job is not to judge you.  Their job is to assist you in resolving the issue.

Most important, once that comfort level is established you should provide all the information they need, or their ability to help you may be limited.  Please see our companion article on your Initial Consultation.

 

Finding the Right Kind of Legal Assistance

There are many times in our lives when we experience problems that are beyond our grasp, where we need to speak to a professional.

If your car breaks down, you want a mechanic.  If furnace dies, you need an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) technician.  If you develop health issues, you turn to your Family Doctor.  In the legal system, you have a broader choice of legal representation for many matters in Ontario.  In Ontario, you can choose to hire a Lawyer or a Paralegal.

As technology advances and we become more and more specialized in what we do, it becomes easier for each of us to understand the value of knowledge.  Like your auto mechanic, your family doctor or your HVAC technician, lawyers and paralegals offer specialized knowledge that can help you resolve your legal problems.  Browne & Associates Legal Services Professional Corporation is owned and operated by experienced paralegals that have practiced in the province of Ontario.  We also connect to lawyers that may be able to assist you in resolving legal issues that as paralegals, we cannot become directly involved in.

Read more… “Finding the Right Kind of Legal Assistance”