Residential Tenancies Act Amendments could Erode the Rights of Tenant Victims
The Province was probably well-intentioned when it sought some increased protection for victims of abuse.
The difficulty is that the strategy may have “back-fired” and increased the vulnerability of the specific group that it wishes to assist.
Any Tenant can fill out a Form N15 and a companion document to the effect that the Tenant is in fear should they remain in the premises due to “abuse”. The Forms are taken “at face value”. No proof is required. The Tenant simply states the “conclusion”, and that is all the proof that is required.
The consequence is the Tenancy is terminated in 28 days. That’s the case, as long as the Tenant leaves. If the Tenant changes their mind, no further Form, document or communication is required. They just stay. The Landlord will only know whether the Tenancy was terminated if they find on day 29, that the Tenant left.
The Province obviously had some choices to make in order to assist victims of abuse. The Province could have sought to intervene in any number of possible contractual obligations facing the victim, including programs, benefits and grants of the Government and quasi-governmental agencies.
Some people in society are being abused. The Province decided that they need some money and they need to “move on”.
When it comes to occupation of a rental unit, the low end is about $1,000.00 per month, For two people, this would be $500.00 each. At the high end, this would be about $5,000.00 per month, and, in fact, it could be that the abuser is the one who is paying the entire rental amount.
The solution to the problem appears to be twofold:
1) Give the victim money, and
2) Let the victim move out.
The Province could have given victims some money itself, through various government agencies, including welfare. It could have reduced the imposition of excessive hydro rates, offering the victims a discount, a coupon or a credit of some kind. That would bring Hydro to the table.
It could have said, that victims should get a discount, credit or waiver on their credit card amounts, perhaps, free interest for a year or so. That would bring MasterCard and Visa to the table. It could have said that victims, if they filled out a “victimization form” would get six (6) months of free cell service. That would bring Bell, Rogers and Telus to the table.
So, it’s easy to see why that didn’t happen!
The Tenant fills out the victimization forms and:
1) 28 days later, leaves, but only if they want to, and
2) Gets a refund of 32 days of “last month’s rent”.
The only actual person who is “out money” will be the Landlord. It is important to note that the Landlord is an innocent victim here too. So, why should the Landlord suffer the loss rather than having it spread around and shared by all of society?
All leases now offer only 28 days of security to a Landlord. However, going forward, a Landlord would prefer to rent to the abuser rather than the victim.
This just doesn’t seem right.
In the example we used above, in one case, a victim might receive $533.00 (32 days of prepaid rent), or $1,066.00, or nothing at all.
Nevertheless, the Landlord is likely without rent until the premises are readied, cleaned, advertised and rented to a second or new Tenant. In other cases of termination the Landlord knows that the Tenant is planning to leave, and will indeed leave 60 days hence. That’s sufficient time to get another Tenant in most cases.
There is a clear financial loss and the incidence of that befalls the Landlord, no matter what.
It seems to be a rather odd social policy, when there are clear alternatives available under the criminal justice system and the civil justice system as well as the welfare system, and social support system to assist victims specifically and directly.
This tenancy cancellation power simply erodes their negotiating power in the future because Landlords will select just about any other prospective Tenant over them, meaning, of course, that the less fortunate will be condemned to social housing.
Let’s hope that the “professional tenants” never hear of this!
Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker