UPDATE: WE’RE PLEASED TO REPORT THAT BILL 124 WAS PASSED ON MAY 18TH AFTER THIS STORY WAS WRITTEN.
After years of pressure from tenant advocates the Ontario government is finally taking 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.
Right now, Bill 124 is being considered by the Standing Committee on General Government.
The Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO) a community legal clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario, told the Committee recently that there are good things in this proposed legislation that will be of benefit to tenants.
Four Reasons for Tenants to be Happy with Bill 124
- The 1991 exemption will be ended. 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.
- A new standard lease form will be introduced. The result will be that 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. They should end the punishment of good tenants who are 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.
Since tenants will pay for any increases in utility costs in the following year as they are included in the Consumer Price Index on which the annual guideline is based.
The legislation isn’t perfect. ACTO’s submission notes there is still work to be done, what they call “Missing Pieces.” (You can read the submission at http://www.acto.ca/assets/files/ACTO-Deputation-to-General-Government-Committee-FINAL.pdf)
On balance, though, this is legislation that should be supported.
Not surprisingly, landlords and property developers, who like to portray themselves as tenant allies, are fighting back on some of these proposed changes. It is important, then, that tenants, advocates and others speak out. The legislation needs to pass so that we can move toward a province where rental housing is fairer and more affordable for all Ontarians.
You are encouraged to remind the government to keep its promises to pass Bill 124.