Recent Published Article by Sarah Hahn – Recent changes to the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act

Recent changes to the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act: reduced notice period for victims of sexual or domestic violence

 

Sarah Hahn Lawyer

By: Sarah Hahn

Associate Lawyer, HGR Graham Partners LLP

 

The Province of Ontario has just made it a bit easier for victims of abuse to move out if they believe that there is risk of harm if they stay in the unit. Through lengthy changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 17 on September 8, 2016, victims of domestic or sexual abuse can end their tenancy with 28 days’ notice. Without this reduced notice, a tenant could have to stay until the end of a lease period or be liable for rent for the remaining term of the lease, or he or she would have to give at least 60 days’ notice in the case of a month-to-month tenancy.

The new additions to section 47 of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 provide that notice can be given at any time during the tenancy. Further, the tenant does not need to be living with the abuser to be eligible for the reduced notice period.

What does this mean for tenants who are in abusive situations?

A tenant can get out of his or her tenancy with 28 days’ notice if he or she meets the following criteria:

1. The tenancy falls under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006;

2. The tenant and/or a child residing with the tenant has experienced ‘violence or another form of abuse’ as set out in the Act; and

3. (a) The tenant states that he or she believes that there is risk of harm or injury if he or she continues to live in the rental unit;

or

3. (b) the tenant has a restraining order or peace bond that orders someone not to contact the tenant or child and/or an order to not enter the rental unit.

A tenant has to provide his or her landlord with two documents:

1. A completed and signed Tenant’s Notice to End my Tenancy Because of Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse N15 form;

and

2. (a) A completed and signed Tenant’s Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse;

or

2. (b) a copy of a restraining order or peace bond issued by a court within 90 days that orders someone not to contact the tenant or a child living with the tenant and/or not to enter the rental unit.

A Tenant’s Notice to End my Tenancy Because of Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence form does not have to describe the circumstances of the abuse, identify the abuser or the person’s relationship with the abuser or specify whether the abuse was against the tenant or the child residing with the tenant

If a tenant has a lease or a month-to-month tenancy with another person (a joint-tenant or a “co-tenant”), an N15 notice will terminate his or her interest in the tenancy on the termination date. The tenant can also ask the other tenant(s) if they would like to terminate their lease or tenancy and the co-tenant(s) can sign the N15 to benefit from the reduced notice period as well. If a co-tenant doesn’t sign the N15, their tenancy continues.

A tenant’s landlord has an obligation to keep the notice and its contents a secret. If the landlord breaches this duty, a tenant can report him or her to the Ministry of Housing’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit and/or can file an application with the Landlord Tenant Board. The landlord may be liable to the tenant for damages.

A tenant who submits an N15 form must leave on or before the date specified on the form and must remove all of his or her belongings from the unit on or before this date. The tenant must also pay rent up to the last day of the tenancy, although a last month’s rent deposit may cover this time period.

If the tenant has given a deposit for the last month’s rent that causes an overpayment, it is likely that a landlord would need to reimburse the tenant on a pro-rated basis, though the Act does not specify the result of such an occurrence. If there is an issue regarding overpayment, a tenant should hire a lawyer or visit his or her community legal clinic.

What does this mean for landlords?

The tenant is permitted to terminate the tenancy with 28 days’ notice. A landlord cannot reveal any information contained in a notice or tell others about the existence of the notice. There are some exceptions which are limited and set out in the Act.

One should be careful when dealing with the tenant after he or she receives the N15 form and should always speak to the tenant directly and privately instead of sending mail or letters. If there are co-tenants, a landlord may disclose that a notice was given to end the tenancy and the termination date of the tenancy. This can only be after the tenancy has been terminated and no other details should be provided.

A landlord is liable for his or her employees and should make sure that all staff is properly trained to know the new rules. If this confidentially is breached, a landlord can be fined up to $25,000 for an individual and $100,000 for a corporation. The landlord may also be liable to the tenant for damages.

The rental unit can be advertised for rent during the notice period only if the rental unit cannot be identified within the ad. A landlord cannot show the unit until the tenant or all of the co-tenants have moved out.

If there are remaining tenants who have not signed the N15 form, this notice does not end their tenancy and the lease or month-to-month tenancy continues to apply. If the remaining tenant(s) cannot pay the full rent, the landlord should speak to a lawyer or paralegal about options for terminating the tenancy in the event of non-payment.

Where a tenant has provided a deposit for the last month’s rent, a landlord may also need to reimburse the tenant for any overpayment of rent. If there is a potential overpayment, the tenant can bring an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board or start a civil suit. If there is uncertainty surrounding repayment or entitlement, the landlord should speak to a lawyer or paralegal for advice.

If a landlord suspects that a tenant has lied when providing the N15 notice, he or she may file a complaint with the Ministry of Housing’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit and the former tenant could face a fine of up to $25,000. The landlord may also be able to sue the tenant for lost rent or other damages.

What does this mean for other co-tenants?

A co-tenant may also sign the N15 to end their tenancy if the tenant who is fleeing lets the other tenant know beforehand. The co-tenant will need to sign the N15 at the same time as the fleeing tenant to be able to benefit from the reduced notice period.

A co-tenant who has not signed an N15 form remains obligated to stay in the unit until he or she gives their own proper notice. The remaining co-tenant(s) will responsible for the entirety of the rent after the fleeing tenant leaves.

If a co-tenant has reason to believe that the former tenant lied to get out of the tenancy, he or she may be able to sue the former tenant for rent or other damages. The tenant could also face a fine of up to $25,000 and should be reported to the Ministry of Housing’s Investigation and Enforcement Unit .

What is violence or abuse under the Act?

The Act defines what is considered violence or abuse for this purpose. An individual or a child residing with the individual is deemed to have experienced ‘violence or another form of abuse’ if one of the following circumstances is applicable:

1. An order has been made under section 810(3) of the Criminal Code of Canada for a recognizance order that another person keep the peace and be of good behaviour with one or more conditions that relates to the tenant, the child, or the rental unit plus this person must be one of the following: the tenant’s spouse, former spouse, someone the tenant lives with or has lived with in a congeal relationship, a person the tenant is dating or used to date, or someone who is living with the tenant that is related to the tenant or child by blood, marriage or adoption.

2. An order has been made under section 46 of the Family Law Act for a restraining order against another person with one or more provisions that relate to the tenant, the child, or the rental unit.

3. An order has been made under section 35 of the Children’s Law Reform Act for a restraining order against another person with one or more provisions that relate to the tenant, the child, or the rental unit plus this person must be one of the following: the tenant’s spouse, former spouse, someone the tenant lives with or has lived with in a conjugal relationship, a person the tenant is dating or used to date, or someone who is living with the tenant that is related to the tenant or child by blood, marriage or adoption.

4. The tenant provides a signed Tenant’s Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse form which alleges that another person:

(a) caused bodily harm to the tenant, the child, or damage to property through an intentional or reckless act or omission;

(b) caused the tenant or child to fear for his or her own safety or the child’s safety through an act, omission or threat;

(c) forced confinement of the tenant or child without lawful authority; or

(d) caused the tenant or child to fear for his or her own safety or the child’s safety through a series of actions such as contacting, communicating with, observing or recording.

plus this person must be one of the following: the tenant’s spouse, former spouse, someone the tenant lives with or has lived with in a congeal relationship, a person the tenant is dating or used to date, or someone who is living with the tenant that is related to the tenant or child by blood, marriage or adoption.

5. The tenant provides a signed Tenant’s Statement About Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse form which alleges that sexual violence has been committed against the tenant or child.

 

*This is a simplified description of the new provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 to provide general information. This is not meant to be advice for any particular situation.

Link to Article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/changes-ontario-residential-tenancies-act-sarah-hahn?trk=prof-post

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