by Bob Aaron
Three members of the MDSA board met last month with housing minister John Gerretsen to make representations on the forthcoming amendments to the Tenant Protection Act.
Shortly after the Liberal government came to power, it conducted a province-wide series of consultations on repealing and replacing the Tenant Protection Act. It now appears that the government is ready to introduce the amendments and is meeting with stakeholder groups to update the results of the consultations and to sound participants out on possible changes to the legislation.
Last month, MDSA president Bob Aaron, vice-president Chris Morgis and board member Danny Iannuzziello met with housing minister John Gerretsen, his parliamentary assistant Brad Duguid, and a small group of senior ministry staff for more than an hour.
We listened carefully to their comments and made representations as to what we would like to see in the new Tenant Protection Act.
No announcements were made and the predictions set out below are not Ministry policy, but only our educated guess as to where their current feelings lie. In no particular order, here are some highlights of the meeting:
• We stressed that the TPA is working and should not be tampered with without careful consideration.
• It appears that the Ministry does not want to reintroduce a rent registry although an honor-system self- registry may be possible.
• The six percent interest on prepaid rent is probably gone and will be replaced by a more reasonable figure - possibly two percent.
• Annual guideline rent increases could be linked to the Consumer Price Index of Statistics Canada.
• It looks like the City of Toronto and other municipalities will NOT get control of their own rent regimes. This was a major fear of landlord groups, and we think this issue is not on the table. At the same time, there probably will not be different rules for different areas of the province based on vacancy levels.
• Our best guess is that vacancy decontrol will remain, although it may be subject to some level of modification.
• The Ministry wants the new legislation to be “fair” to good landlords and good tenants.
• We stated our position that private bailiffs should be allowed to perform evictions, since they are already licensed and bonded. They would also probably be much faster and cheaper than the sheriffs.
• The issue of AGIs (Above Guideline Increases) and Costs No Longer Borne is a problem area and will have to be resolved in the face of tenant complaints about permanent increases remaining in place long after an improvement has been fully paid for .
• In our presentation, we stressed that TPA decisions are erratic and inconsistent; that the system operates as an incentive for non-paying tenants; that there is no need for a hearing in default of a tenant dispute; and that the tribunal would be seriously backlogged (even more than it is now) if all default evictions required a hearing.
• We stressed the inequities of the unfair property tax burden on multi-residential buildings. We do not expect to see any short-term relief on this topic.
• We stressed that Tribunal delay is unfair; that TPA claims and files should be open to the public just like the files in other courts; that tenant disputes are not being forwarded to landlords, who get blind-sided by them at hearings; that 5 days should be ample time to file a dispute following service of an N4, N5, N6, N7 or N8.
It is possible that amendments to or replacement of the Tenant Protection Act will be introduced in the spring or - at the latest - in the fall sitting of the legislature. The government aims to have the changes in place before the election in 2007, but no guarantees were given.