.. iping their legal right to have a say in a real court is only done to keep tenants out of the Ministers hair. When asked about the anticipated problem of tenant complaints Al Leach was quoted as saying: We intend to keep them out of the courts as much as we can.8 Tenants cases would be rushed through to keep the line moving. Although efficient, this does not do justice to tenants concerns. Even if tenants were to receive a fair decision that would ask the landlord to stop the harassment, it is not enforceable.
The small, underfunded anti-harassment unit would not be able to deter the amount of harassment anticipated. Their threat to enforce the rule of law is an empty one. A joke. The government told the C.S.T.R. that it will protect tenants by doubling the fines for harassment. Fines could be quadrupled and it still would not matter because they are flawed in their application.
C.S.T.R. states: Given that the Tories are slashing workplace health and safety inspections, food inspectors and virtually every other kind of enforcement of public interest laws you can think of, what makes you believe their promise to enforce anti-harassment by landlords? 10 Anti-harassment laws under the proposed Tenant Protection Act are unenforceable and ineffective due to budget constraints. Harassment protection afforded to tenants would become nil and an open season would be declared on them. The first thing that landlords would do to pressure tenants to move would be to deprive them of repairs. This sort of behavior is frowned upon by the government. Under the proposed changes, they shall show their displeasure by doubling the repair fines.
Nonetheless this change, like the harassment fines, is an empty threat. Sixty percent of Ontario apartments are greater than 25 years old.11 They either need extensive repairs or they are so deteriorated, that they are ready to be replaced by condominiums. This fact plays into the landlords pressure strategy nicely. If a tenant does not want to move, he has to stand and watch as his home degrades all around him. When the old furnace breaks down, he will freeze.
When the sink stops working, he will have no water. It would only be a matter of time before the tenant realizes that his struggle is useless. He will have to move. Landlords have gone as far as charging tenants an extra fee of $180 per month for having unauthorized appliances such as washers, dryers, and air conditioners.12 If the landlord does not want to see his unit degrade for the sake of higher rent, there are other options available to him. He can scare the tenant out of his home.
Landlords infamous for using strongmen for this purpose. Washed out boxers or thugs looking to make a quick buck are a landlords best friend. Tenants are told to move, or else. If they do not get the message the first time, then the strongmen would reinforce their point. What is worse than no repairs, or the threats of an enforcer? Eviction.
If a tenant does not leave because of the slumlike conditions or intimidation, he will be flat out thrown out. Landlords do not like to resorting to this, because of its expense and the time needed for the legal process. Evictions can take up to four months. But if the changes are passed, eviction may prove to be a landlord’s pastime. The Residence Rights Act was passed by the N.D.P. government in 1994. This made tenants far more difficult to evict.
Under the proposal, eviction laws under the Residence Rights Act would be repealed. Landlords would be given much more discretion in evictions. The time it takes to evict would be shortened and there would be no appeal process. Changing rent control laws would not only harm peoples mobility rights in that they will not be able to afford to move, but insult would be added to injury in that landlords would not let them stay. Where would they go? They would end up on the streets.
Repealing rent control would make the rich richer, and the poor, poorer. If controls are lifted, the inherent mismatch of power in the housing market would cause a shift in the wealth between landlords and tenants. Owners and developers would become richer from the higher rent their land yields, while those who can not foot the increases would be deprived of a home. The forces in the market would cause tenants to be caught up in an affordability gap. This is because the cost of building housing has increased at a higher rate than average tenant incomes for the last ten years.13 The poor would be especially hit hard. From 1982-1994, monthly incomes of tenants living in projects actually fell, from $717 to $661. Eliminating rent control is supposed to raise vacancy rates.
However, vacancy rates do not deal with affordability. Since 85% of renters fall on the bottom third of income earners, empty apartments would come from those who could no longer afford them.14 If the Tenant Protection Act is to pass, rent supplements should be worked into the proposal. Supplements would help tenants fill in the affordability gap created by lifting controls. This is not the case under the proposal. Lifting controls would seriously harm many people. Torontos city planning and development department blames the affordability gap for the increased usage of food banks. They say that if controls are lifted, people will not have enough money for food.
This will result in unmanageable lines at the food bank.15 Alternative housing is another housing program that is going to come under attack by the changes. Also called special-care housing, this program is the only thing keeping 47,000 people across Ontario off the streets.16 Alternative housing puts up single mothers, seniors, the disabled and people who would be otherwise homeless without it. The Residence Rights Act protects special-care tenants from eviction. The proposal would repeal the R.R.A. to give landlords of care homes the power to enter homes without notice to perform bed checks.
They would also be able to flash evict abusive tenants who fail to pay rent or damage property. This worries many because these are the people who are at most risk for homelessness. Special-care tenants are not the only ones in danger. Because of this decades poor economy, the number of metro residents that were evicted doubled from 1990-1995.17 The combined effect of lifting controls and more powerful eviction laws can only worsen the situation. Those who are forced out of their homes to get their controls lifted and cannot afford a decontrolled unit, will slip through the cracks and onto the streets.
There would be more evictees with a greater proportion of these people becoming Ontarios homeless. Such was the case for Irwin Anderson. Irwin Anderson was one of three street people who froze to death last winter. The inquest involved linked the deaths to a lack of affordable housing in Toronto. In particular, Anderson had been evicted for non-payment of two months rent. But he had previously paid rent in his apartment in the subsidized complex for five years.
An arrangement for repayment could have been worked out. Instead, he was evicted. The frightening truth is that this could happen to anyone, even the well educated. Mirsalah-Aldin Kompani, another of the three who froze last winter had an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky. At this point, tenants would not be shouting about their right to affordable housing, they would be fighting for their basic right to a home. Their only refuge from the cold would be confinement to a crowded hostel.
These may be no better than the streets themselves. The Toronto Coalition Against Homelessness states that people loathe these places and that affordable housing should be the central focus since hostels only offer a superficial solution to the real problem.18 Consequently, because of the affordability gap, cuts to alternative/public housing and flash evictions, repealing rent laws would split Ontarios middle class into two, putting half up in condominiums, while incarcerating the others in hostels. Since the strength of society depends on its middle class and its ability to keep people off the streets, the proposal should be rejected. For these reasons, the proposed Tenant Protection Act damages society as it attacks Ontarians appanage to affordable housing, restricts their movability and erodes the middle class. The change would take away positive intervention and let the nature of the markets decide a redistribution of wealth. Many would live on the land owned by an elite few.
This is not equitable so government intervention in the markets must remain. When the majority of peoples happiness and values are protected against the advantageous elite, then that is a sign that a society is just. Endnotes 1 Ministry of Housing, The 1996 Rent Control Guideline, p.1. 2 Toronto Star, Critics fear pending bill will strip tenant rights, June 26, 1996, p.A7. 3 ibid.
4 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, p.A6. 5 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996, p.A1. 6 Toronto Star, Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls, September 9, 1995, p.A3. 7 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, June 24, 1996, p.A7. 8 Toronto Star, Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says, June 7, 1996, p.A10. 9 The Tenant Bulletin, C.S.T.R.
fights rent control reform, July 26, 1996, p.1. 10 ibid. 11 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996, p.A1. 12 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, June 24, 1996, p.A7. 13 D.
Edwin and R.Vogt, Basic Economics, p.56. 14 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, p.A6. 15 ibid. 16 Toronto Star, New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable, May 28, 1994, p.L6. 17 Toronto Star, Anguish of Eviction Day, July 7,1996, p.A1.
18 Toronto Sun, Aid homeless, Harris told, June 25, 1996, p.15. Bibliography Dolan, Edwin G., and Roy Vogt. Basic Economics. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, 1984. Internet, Usenet. Changes to rent control.
Tor.general. July 2, 1996. Ontario, Ministry of Housing. Rent Control Act, 1992 : Statutes of Ontario. [Toronto] : Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 1992.
Ontario, Ministry of Housing. Rent Control and Hearings. Pamphlet. December, 1993. What is Maximum Rent? August, 1994. Rent Control and Tenants.
August, 1994 A Guide to The Landlord and Tenant Act. January, 1995. Information About An Order Prohibiting a Rent Increase. Fact sheet. October, 1993. The 1996 Rent Control Guideline.
August, 1995. Tenant Bulletin. C.S.T.R. fights rent control reform. July 26, 1996. Toronto Star.
Anguish of Eviction Day. July 7,1996. 6 agencies serving homeless allowed standing at inquest. June 27, 1996. A free rental-housing market is not a level playing field.
June 27, 1996. Rent control proposals are attacked. June 26, 1996. Critics fear pending bill will strip tenant rights . June 26, 1996.
Halfway measures in rent controls. June 26, 1996. Province plans to protect tenants. June 25, 1996. Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord.
June 24, 1996. Helpers for homeless seek role at inquest into freezing deaths. June 19, 1996. Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says. June 7, 1996.
Minister of non-housing rethinks position. June 2, 1996. High rents leaving no money for food. March 31, 1996 Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls. September 9, 1995. New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable. May 28, 1994.
Toronto Sun. Rent control reform June 25, 1996. Aid homeless, Harris told. June 25, 1996.