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How to stop bad-faith N12 evictions? NDP's enforcement, public registry ideas met with opposition

A registry of filings and better enforcement of an N12 are NDP ideas for improving the Ontario legal eviction notice, but the head of a landlords' group says the real problem is long delays for tenant board hearings. Depending on where you live in Canada, landlords can cite personal use, the gist of an N12, for evicting tenants.

Ontario landlord group says long delays for hearings are holding up legal evictions

An N12 notice indicates an Ontairo landlord or purchaser's intention to have either themselves or an immediate relative move in to an occupied rental suite. The Ontario NDP says often, N12s are used in bad faith as a way to evict long-term tenants who are paying lower than market value rent. (Government of Ontario)

Here's the scenario: You're a renter in Ontario and the landlord serves you with an N12 application. 

The N12 is legal notification to a tenant that the landlord, or an immediate relative of the landlord, intends to move into a rental space. It's one of the few reasons a landlord in Ontario, and other provinces, can ask tenants to move, even if they haven't violated their lease for issues such as non-payment.

As a tenant, you have rights. While rules for evicting a tenant for a landlord's own use vary across Canada, in Ontario, you're entitled to 60 days' notice. You can also refuse to move out while you appeal the filing to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), where it's up to the landlord to prove the filing is legit. 

If the filing was done in bad faith — for example, if the relative never moves in and the eviction was actually done to move in a higher-paying tenant — the landlord could be fined up to $25,000. 

Virginia Pratten is facing eviction at the end of this month after the house where she rents a room, was sold and the landlord filed an N12 form, indicating an intention to move in a relative. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Advocates for renters say N12 filings are becoming more frequent.

On Monday, CBC News told the story of a 62-year-old in London, Ont., who's been served with N12s three times

The Ontario NDP has introduced a bill to tighten up some of what the party sees as problems in how the N12 process works.

"A huge problem is there's no enforcement," said NDP housing critic Jessica Bell, who represents the Toronto riding of Rosedale-University. 

"It's the responsibility of the renter to monitor the home and then file an application with the LTB if they suspect the landlord's relative has not moved in. It's very difficult for a renter to do that," she said.

It is lucrative for landlords to evict a long-term tenant who has been paying low rent and find a tenant who can pay double the price.- Jessica Bell, NDP housing critic

"They can't monitor people's mail, they can't go into the home, they can't check tax records and most renters who've been evicted, they just want to move on."

Beefing up enforcement so government inspectors, not the ousted renter, can check back to ensure a relative actually moved in is one of the changes the NDP would like to see when it comes to how N12s are used. 

"It is lucrative for landlords to evict a long-term tenant who has been paying low rent and find a tenant who can pay double the price. That's what we're concerned about," she said. 

The NDP also proposes a public registry of N12 filings to expose landlords who file them repeatedly. 

"There's only so many times you can say you're moving a family member in," said Bell. 

Landlord cites enforcement privacy issues 

William Blake is a member of the Ontario Landlords Association and has been a landlord in the province for more than 20 years. 

He doesn't believe hiring a troupe of enforcement officers is the best way to fix the N12 process. 

Most of the N12 filings are in good faith. If you're going to have people sneaking around, looking into windows and such, you have a lot of privacy rights issues.- William Blake, Ontario Landlords Association member

"It's a very slippery slope," he said. "Most of the N12 filings are in good faith. If you're going to have people sneaking around, looking into windows and such, you have a lot of privacy rights issues." 

He said renters who've been evicted by an N12 filing they believe was done in bad faith can easily catch out the landlords through watching rental ads, or simply knocking on the door to see who's living in their former rental unit. If they see evidence the landlord's relative didn't move in, Blake said, they can raise it with the LTB so "they and their landlord can have their day in court." 

Tenants who've been ousted unfairly are entitled to compensation on moving costs and the difference between the rent at their old suite and new on.

Check the laws on evictions

While he doesn't condone the practice, Blake said many landlords use N12 evictions in bad faith because it can take months to get an LTB board hearing to legally evict a tenant for non-payment or other issues. Blake said it can take more than eight months to get a hearing because the LTB is so backed up.

"A lot of landlords are using N12s not to raise rent, but to remove a troublesome tenant," said Blake. "They find this can be the quickest way. It's not right, but it's certainly the reality of what's happening. Perhaps if the LTB was more efficient and professional, landlords would find other options to evict their tenant."

Provincial and territorial landlord and tenant laws vary, with different requirements based on if and when a landlord can evict a tenant for reasons similar to what's allowed under N12. So it's important to check the laws where you live.

In B.C., for instance, a landlord who plans personal use of property "in good faith" can evict a tenant with proper two months' notice; in Quebec, a landlord can "repossess" an apartment for themselves, their children or parents, or a spouse from whom they're separated or divorced, or a relative they are supporting.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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