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.