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Landlords using loophole to evict tenants

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

A loophole in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) allows Ontario landlords to evict tenants by simply claiming their units are needed to house family members — even without first having to prove such a person is moving in, says Ottawa paralegal Amri Murray.

“When they fill in an N12 form, a landlord only needs to say an immediate family member plans to live in the unit for at least a year,” says Murray, principal of AJ Murray Legal Services.

“The RTA calls for landlords to do that in ‘good faith,’ which basically means they shouldn’t lie about it, but for the evicted tenant, that can be very hard to prove.”

Murray says using the N12 form is the easiest way for individual landlords — not corporate property owners — to end a tenancy. All they have to do is claim that they need the unit for themselves or their spouse, parent or child, the spouse’s child or parent, or someone who provides care to any of those people.

“I have found that most tenants will not challenge an N12 since it’s so hard to prove that it’s illegitimate. So they just move out,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

According to a Globe and Mail story, the use of N12s has risen sharply in recent years. In 2012, N12s were used for 1,542 eviction applications, the story states, but by 2018, that number increased to 2,919, as Toronto’s rental market dropped to record low vacancy.

The leader of a Toronto tenants association said concerns about illegal evictions are the “No. 1” concern of renters, the story states. “It’s just through the roof,” he said.

According to information on the N12 form, the termination date for the rental unit must be at least 60 days after the landlord gives the notice.

If the tenants don’t move by the date, the landlord can request an eviction notice from the Landlord and Tenant Board, explains Murray. It’s then up to the tenant to prove the landlord is acting in bad faith, which can be very difficult, she says.

Even after being evicted, tenants can challenge their former landlords about their intentions with the unit by filing a T5 form, Murray says. The document, downloadable online, asks people to explain in detail why they believe the landlord acted in bad faith.

“They can explain they visited the property months later and found a new tenant there that was not a family member,” she says. “And if that tenant is paying an increased rent, that would indicate the eviction was just a way to allow the landlord to increase the rent.”

Murray says former tenants have a year to challenge their eviction, and if successful, they can request compensation for moving costs, or the difference in rent they are paying for their new unit.

Many landlords tend to overlook their responsibilities to the renter when handing out N12s, she says.

“Landlords seem to forget that when they file an N12 citing reason 1, they are required to compensate the unit owner for at least one month’s rent, or offer another rental unit that is acceptable to them,” Murray says.

If landlords want to end a lease so they can demolish the rental unit, or do extensive upgrades on it, she says they can give the tenant an N13 form, which has longer deadlines to move out of the unit.

While the N12 option is susceptible to abuse by landlords, Murray says she sees a need for the government to keep it.

“Without this provision, landlords who, in good faith, simply wish to regain possession of their property, would be left without recourse,” she says.

“I’ve seen many occasions where landlords just want to stop having tenants and enjoy the use of their entire property,” Murray says. “The N12 helps in that situation, as there is really nothing else they can do if they genuinely just want their home back.”

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