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The province says Bill 184 protects both landlords and tenants. Here's why both sides hate it

The government of Premier Doug Ford says Bill 184 will "strengthen protections for tenants and make it easier to resolve landlord and tenant disputes." But It has sparked loud protests by tenants and their supporters, while advocates for landlords say it doesn't go far enough to address their concerns.

Legislation has sparked tenant protests, but advocates for landlords say it doesn't go far enough

Valeria Burnazov says her tenant moved into her condo in the the middle of the pandemic and is now refusing to pay rent. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Richmond Hill landlord Valeria Burnazov says she's at her wits' end with a tenant she says is refusing to pay rent. 

The tenant moved into her condo in the middle of the pandemic in May, and according to Burnazov, paid two weeks of rent that month as per their agreement for May, plus a security deposit — but hasn't paid a penny since.

"It is literally a nightmare. I actually have trouble sleeping. I have really bad anxiety," she said, adding she's "out thousands of dollars every month."

Right now, there's a moratorium on evictions across the province because of COVID-19. As a result, Burnazov says, her hands are tied. She hopes that Bill 184 might lead to some positive changes in her favour.

The legislation, officially titled the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, has passed second reading at Queen's Park and is now before a legislative committee. The government of Premier Doug Ford says it will "strengthen protections for tenants and make it easier to resolve landlord and tenant disputes.

"When rent is overdue, we want to encourage landlords and tenants to work together to come up with repayment agreements — rather than resorting to evictions," a spokeswoman for the municipalities and housing ministry has said in an email to CBC News.

But so far, the bill seems to have satisfied nobody on either side of the landlord-tenant divide. It has sparked loud protests by tenants and their supporters in recent days, while advocates for landlords say the legislation doesn't go far enough to address their concerns.

What tenant advocates are saying

The bill has been dubbed the "eviction bill" by tenant advocates.

A key sticking point for them is that, while currently all disputes over evictions and rent in arrears must be heard by the Landlord and Tenant Board —  some of which result in rent repayment plans — the bill would allow landlords to bypass the board and offer tenants their own repayment plan.

However, a government official with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, explained in an email to CBC that if an agreement is reached during that process, the agreement must still be submitted to the Landlord and Tenant Board for approval, and if approved, the board would then issue a consent order.

A speaker addresses a crowd at Queen's Park during a protest last Monday against Bill 184, legislation that they say would speed up evictions. 'Kill the eviction bill,' they chanted. (Angelina King/CBC)

Dania Majid, a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, says this new repayment plan process would be problematic, especially for tenants who've fallen into arrears in rent due to the pandemic.

"They might find themselves pressured by landlords to enter repayment plans, unaffordable repayment plans, in the offices of the landlord."

The ministry official explained that after a consent order is issued, a tenant has 30 days to appeal the order if they feel they were pressured into the agreement. And, if a tenant is offered a repayment plan, they still have a right to a hearing.

Cole Webber, a community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, says the bill would speed up the eviction process. 

"One, by removing tenants' right to raise tenant rights issues at a hearing if they've not given written notice in advance, and also by creating a situation where if tenants fail to meet the terms of a repayment plan, the landlord can get a quick eviction order from the tribunal without having to have a hearing," he said. 

"[It's] setting the stage for mass evictions of tenants who were unable to pay rent in full during the COVID-19 lockdown."

What landlord advocates are saying

According to Kayla Andrade, the founder of Ontario Landlords Watch and vice president of Boardwalk Property Management, the bill does more for tenants than landlords, pointing to a proposed fee structure for unlawful evictions that she says would require landlords to give compensation to tenants

Kayla Andrade, says the bill would do more to protect tenants than landlords. (CBC)

As for the argument that the bill would make it easier to evict tenants because of the opportunity to have mediation without a hearing, Andrade says both landlords and tenants would need to agree to that mediation. She says if the two sides don't agree, then they would still go to a hearing. 

"We don't see it changing anything better by offering this prior to a hearing date," she said.

"It could speed up the landlord and tenant board process ... by alleviating a backlog that way, but again, if tenants are abusing the system, they're going to know the loopholes within the new setting of mediation through Bill 184"

Moratorium on evictions could lift soon

A recent revision to the provincial order suspending all evictions indicates means it will be in place only until the end of the calendar month in which the state of emergency is terminated, which could happen in July. 

"It's frankly a horrifying prospect that evictions could begin as soon as August 1st," said Webber, the Parkdale community legal worker.

"And that the government continues to try and ram through Bill 184, which would speed up that eviction process when it starts again, all in the context of mass unemployment, widespread hardship, and of course, a global pandemic."  

Cole Webber, a community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services, says the Bill is setting the stage for mass evictions in the near future. (CBC)

He's calling on Toronto Mayor John Tory to "pick a side in this fight" and order a municipal moratorium on evictions in Toronto.

On Friday, when the mayor was asked about last Monday's protest against the bill, in which demonstrators marched to his condo, he said he understands the frustrations, but he's not responsible for the legislation.

Meanwhile, Burnazov hopes that the bill will help landlords who she says are being taken advantage of.

"Because right now, the process, it's a nightmare. It's really hell," she said.

"It can ruin lives, the amount of money that landlords are out every month."

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