Navigating the Complexities of Landlord and Tenant Law in the Times of Pandemic

Introduction

The Province of Ontario called a state of emergency on March 16, 2020.  A staged lock-down of the Province’s normal activities of business was called to contain the COVID-19 virus.  Among other tribunals, the Landlord and Tenant Board closed its doors to many of its services.  However, the Board still conducts telephone hearings and accepts new Applications.

The enforcement of evictions through the Sheriff is suspended.  The activities of the Board appear to be ground to a halt.

How This Impacts Landlords

As soon as the pandemic began and our economy began to shut down, many tenants across Ontario lost their jobs.  It was evident that many would be unable to pay their rent in April 2020.  A tenant movement across the province encouraged people to “keep their rent”, while our economy shut down.   Many small landlords have called our office for help.

What is Available During the Board’s Shutdown?

Just because the Board is shut down, it does not mean that rent is no longer owed and payable.  If you have a Tenant who stops paying rent at any time, before or after April 1, 2020, you can issue an N4.  In fact, we recommend that Landlords continue to issue Notices as required when Tenants test their limits.  At the same time, if non-payments only began after the pandemic, it might be a good idea to invite your Tenant to discuss the rent with you.

This is a time that you may wish to give your Tenant a break by either deferring all or part of the rent and allowing them to make it up later.  If you choose to do this, ask the Tenant how they have been impacted by the virus and make a temporary agreement.  We recommend that any agreement made be reduced to writing.  The reason for this is to avoid any misunderstandings when the pandemic lifts.

What if My Tenant Refuses to Cooperate or is Causing Problems?

If an Agreement is made and your Tenant continues to fail to pay, you can still file an L1 Application.  Even without Hearings scheduled, this protects your place in line for when the Board re-opens.  Sooner or later, a date will be set.  This also will show your Tenant that you are serious about collecting the monies owed.

If your Tenant is interfering with somebody’s rights or creating safety issues, you need to document this conduct.  It is very important to gather information about dates, times, witnesses and how the Tenant or Tenants interfered.  Notices on issues outside of rent arrears can be complex.  This is where you might wish to consult with us to assist you in drafting these Notices to ensure they are clear and effective.

What Happens if There is a Safety or Legal Issue at the Rental Unit?

Many Landlords fear that Tenants might see a suspension on evictions as an invitation to test their limits.  In some cases, Tenants conduct themselves in a way as to bring harm or safety issues to others in residential complex or the Landlord.  Others may persist or escalate their conduct to such an extent that Police get involved and others are put into a vulnerable position.

Fortunately, the Board has a process where either a new or an existing Application can be processed for an Urgent Hearing.  The Board created forms that can be used in these exceptional circumstances, particularly when an eviction can’t wait.  Ask your legal representatives at Browne & Associates Legal Services if your case might fit.

Is There Anything I Can Do Until the Pandemic is Over?

Notices can be issued and served.  Applications can be filed under any category.  Mediation in certain cases can be arranged by telephone between the Parties and a Hearings Officer at the Board.  Our office can assist you in all of these issues.

Please note that in person client meetings are limited at this point, but our office is equipped to meet by phone, email or even video in some cases to assist clients in getting their questions answered and work done.  Feel free to call us or send an email to us to see if we can help you with your matter.

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