NO RECOURSE WHEN TENANTS USE COVID AS EXCUSE NOT TO PAY RENT
Ryan Sills rented out his one-bedroom Etobicoke condo for the first time in December of 2019.
He said his tenant was “OK” for the first couple of months — until COVID hit.
When the tenant said he didn’t want to pay his $2,050-a-month rent, Sills told him he was happy to defer it until he could pay.
The offer was refused.
To date, Sills is owed more than $20,000 — despite his belief that his tenant has been collecting CERB.
“I kind of got into renting at the worst possible time,” he said this past week.
But the bigger story, he said, is how he’s been treated (or mistreated) by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
Sills filed an application for non-payment of rent to the LTB in early June.
He finally got a hearing date of Dec. 8, he said.
During that hearing, he alleges the tenant spent 40 minutes reading concocted emails about non-issues.
After it was adjourned, another one was cancelled on Dec. 23.
Sils got an “expedited” virtual hearing date on Jan. 13. The adjudicator who showed up was different than the first one and immediately cancelled the hearing, he said.
Another hearing was set for this past Wednesday. He says no adjudicator showed up.
He’s now four for four — and no further ahead.
When we spoke the next day, the 35-year-old said he’s paying two mortgages and although lucky to have a good job, he admits he’s just scraping by.
“They just don’t care,” he said of the LTB. “They’re pushing the financial burden onto the landlords.”
His tenant is still living in the condo but refuses to answer his emails, phone calls or the door.
Like many tenants, he said his is “taking advantage” of the message they got from the province early on in COVID not to pay their rent — plus a hot mess of an LTB.
With evictions put on hold — on and off — throughout COVID, many tenants feel there are no consequences if they stop paying.
“I’m honestly at my wit’s end,” Sils said.
Every landlord I spoke with this past week blamed Premier Doug Ford for telling tenants not to pay their rent last March while talking with reporters last March 26.
He said the province will ensure no one gets evicted for non-payment of rent. But he qualified that by saying: “If you have a job, do not take advantage of this … this is for people most in need…if you have a job, we expect you to pay rent.”
LTB officials, who took a week to respond to my queries for comment, blamed COVID for “sudden and unavoidable service delays.”
In the two-page response that finally came, Janet Deline contended that despite these “unprecedented challenges,” Tribunals Ontario quickly developed and implemented new strategies to serve Ontario residents.
She said as of last Dec. 1, there are 38 full-time and 36 part-time adjudicators, the “greatest number” the board has ever had.
Jim, who didn’t want his full name used, has two small buildings in Port Credit — both with restaurants and apartments above.
In one, a Latin American restaurant was “decimated” by COVID. The restaurant tenant “abandoned ship” in November and left a $30,000 rent bill outstanding, Jim said.
Above that restaurant are five units, one of them occupied by the former restaurateur who also hasn’t paid rent on the apartment since last July. That tab has grown to $11,000, he says.
Jim said he launched an application to evict him in September and still doesn’t have a hearing. He’s even written to Ford and his MPP begging for help, both of whom have responded with stock emails.
“The messaging from the Ford government was very clear… you don’t have to pay rent because there’s no consequence,” he said.
In one of his other units — a studio apartment — a man living with his girlfriend and his two children, didn’t pay his $900-a-month rent from virtually the time he moved in last January, he said. After hearing many excuses, Jim says he got a hearing with the LTB in March, which was cancelled due to the COVID lockdown.
At a second hearing in September, he was informed an eviction order would be issued within a month. He said that order didn’t come until November and in the interim he says his tenant was “destroying the place,” drinking, smoking and telling other tenants not to pay rent.
It took another two months to get a Sheriff to evict. The day they arrived they discovered the tenant had skipped out in the middle of the night leaving the apartment “completely destroyed.”
The damages cost him $20,000 to fix, he said.
STATEMENT FROM THE LANDLORD TENANT BOARD (edited for space reasons)
During the early months of the pandemic last year, the LTB continued to hold hearings by telephone for urgent eviction matters.
When the first eviction moratorium was lifted on Aug. 1, 2020 and more matters were being heard, the LTB (started) holding hearings by videoconference, telephone and in writing.
This allowed for an increased access to justice and enhanced the quality of dispute resolution services.
While the LTB continues to encourage landlords and tenants to work together to resolve their issues, a number of changes and improvements have already been implemented (including a package on the video conference process and other forms to get expedited hearings.)
Hearings are being scheduled regionally according to the filing date and the application type. As of Feb. 12, 2021, the LTB has 7,568 scheduled hearings in to March 2021.
Since Feb. 1, the LTB began offering landlords and tenants ways to pay by credit or debit online.
As a quasi-judicial tribunal, the LTB is continuing its efforts to improve operations and enhance the quality of dispute resolution.
Story by: Toronto Sun