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B.C. landlord-tenant case highlights need for legislation review

A recent case in British Columbia involving a tenant who never paid rent and allegedly worked the system to delay eviction is another example of why landlord-tenant legislation needs to be reviewed and amended, explains Barrie real estate lawyer Shari Elliott.

The case involves a family evicted six times in Victoria, B.C. since 2010 for failing to pay rent, leaving landlords out thousands of dollars. Read CBC story 

“This story is about an example of an abusive tenant learning the system and repetitively taking advantage of landlords in British Columbia. With a quick Google search it is apparent that this story could have been from any province across Canada,” says Elliott.

In Ontario, the objective of landlord-tenant legislation is to provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and evictions as well as balancing the rights and responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants. However, Elliott says efforts made to obtain these objectives have gone too far and resulted in the opposite effect.

“It is simply a part of our society today that there are bad apples in every profession and every walk of life. When checks and balances are put in place legislatively there has to be discretion to deal with the abuses,” says Elliott.

She adds that there is currently no system in place to track a tenant or landlords’ behaviour.

“It would seem that a simply requirement to self-report any prior proceedings before the Landlord Tenant Board and consent for a search of court records should be one of the many amendments considered. This would reveal any prior history on behalf of both the landlord and the tenant to be considered. A tenant who is claiming to be mistreated would be less likely to be taken at face value if there is evidence of multiple claims against different landlords,” she explains.

While Elliott says it may be easy in hindsight to criticize the landlord in this case for not taking as many steps as she could have to investigate the tenant before entering into a lease, many landlords do take all the appropriate steps before commencing a lease and end up in the same place.

“The key to reviewing the problems with the landlord tenant system are to look past the initial steps and review when the tenancy is required to be terminated for any reason,” she says.

In terms of what can landlords do to avoid being in this same position, Elliott says first and foremost, they need to diligently check references.

“This means not just calling one but many different references and making sure to get responses. Often the stories reported about abusive tenants include a sad story that the landlord relied on for why references were not fully investigated,” she says.

“In addition, this lease should not have been executed until the landlord was able to talk to the tenant’s employer. This is also a situation where the first month’s rent cheque was not honoured. The first month’s rent should have been required to be cleared first. A bank draft or certified cheque should be required,” she adds.

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