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Some Ontario landlords are calling for ‘automatic’ evictions for tenants who don’t pay rent

When Zahid Mahmood bought a house in Oshawa, Ont., in 2021, he hoped rental income would help him and his wife save money to pay for post-secondary education for their three children. 

Walking into the house last month, Mahmood says he was faced with piles of trash, bottles of urine, rodents and dog feces — the mess left behind by former tenants. 

Mahmood says the tenants moved into the house in May 2022 and stopped paying rent a year later. In August, he and his wife gave the tenants an N4 eviction notice and filed an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to end the tenancy due to non-payment of rent. 

After waiting months for a hearing, the LTB issued an order last month to terminate the tenancy. According to the order, the total unpaid rent owing exceeds $24,000. 

“Going through all this [caused] stress and mental torture and financial crisis as we had to pay the mortgage during this whole 10 month period,” Mahmood said. 

Mahmood is among a group of landlords calling for changes to provincial rules to make it simpler and faster to evict tenants in cases of non-payment of rent. However tenant advocates say changing the rules could make it easier for bad landlords to exploit the system and illegally evict tenants. 

LTB delays

Landlord Christopher Seepe is behind a petition circulating online that’s calling for “automatic eviction” for tenants who don’t pay rent.  

Seepe says his admittedly “extreme position” was born out of frustration with LTB delays and some small landlords facing dire financial consequences as a result. 

“It was a reflection of years of pent-up emotion,” Seepe said. 

Three photos of piles of junk and dirty mattresses.
When Zahid Mahmood regained posession of his property earlier this month, he discovered junk, rodents and feces. (Submitted by Zahid Mahmood)

In 2022-2023, the LTB received more than 37,000 L1 applications to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, making up more than half of all applications from landlords. 

That year, only seven per cent of hearings were scheduled within the target time frame of 50 or 55 calendar days depending on the application type. The LTB has been working to reduce the backlog, including by hiring more adjudicators. 

More recent indicators published on the Tribunals Ontario website show hearing wait times are improving, with 73 per cent scheduled within the target time during the second quarter of the 2023-2024 fiscal year. 

Seepe argues there shouldn’t be a need for many cases to go to an LTB hearing at all. His petition advocates for a system similar to what’s in place in B.C., where landlords can easily get an eviction order without a hearing in cases where the notice is uncontested. 

B.C. rules should not be model: tenant advocates

In B.C., if a tenant has not paid their rent, a landlord can serve them with a 10 day notice to end the tenancy. The tenant then has five days to either pay the rent or apply to the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch to dispute the notice. 

If the tenant does neither of those things, the landlord can then apply for an order of possession without a hearing. 

Lawyer and tenant advocate Robert Patterson, with the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, says the system may lead to speedy evictions, but it can also be taken advantage of by “bad actors.” He encourages other provinces not to look to B.C. as a model for handling evictions.  

He says he hears regularly from tenants who say their landlord lied about giving them notice before applying for an order of possession.

“I think whenever we talk about accelerating eviction timelines and making it easier to evict, we always have to keep in mind that the flip of that is that tenants are more vulnerable in their homes,” Patterson said.

A man with glasses and a moustache stands in front of a banner for the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre.
Robert Patterson, lawyer for the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, says B.C.’s eviction rules leave tenants vulnerable. (Submitted)

Toronto tenant advocate Geordie Dent agrees, saying it’s important to have strong measures in place to ensure tenants are not illegally evicted. 

When it comes to landlords facing debt due to months of unpaid rent, Dent argues that’s simply part of the risk of business. 

“I have no sympathy for landlords right now in this rental market. I have no sympathy for investors that have to learn about investment risk. But I have a lot of sympathy for tenants,” Dent said.   

Landlords fed up

When Seepe started his petition last month, he says there were about 3,000 signatures added per day for the first few days. There are now more than 29,000. 

Seepe says he has sent the petition to all Ontario MPPs and is encouraging landlords to speak directly with their local MPP. CBC News contacted the ministry of municipal affairs and housing to ask if it is considering making any changes to Ontario laws, but did not hear back. 

Seepe says the level of support and interest from landlords has surprised even him, which he says is a clear indicator that there’s a growing number of landlords who are fed up. 

He argues that if landlords didn’t need to worry about lengthy processes, it could improve the rental market for everyone. 

Over the shoulder photo of Christopher Seepe looking at his online petition on a laptop.
Christopher Seepe says he was surprised by how much support his petition received. (Richard Davis/CBC)

“I wouldn’t even worry about bank statements or pay stubs or identification and so on,” Seepe said. “If I knew that the tenant could be gone in 30 to 60 days because of non payment of rent, I believe that the great majority of housing providers would open up their doors.” 

Mahmood, in Oshawa, says that after his ordeal he will think “100 times” about ever renting out a property again. Right now his plan is to save money in order to fix up the property so he can sell it and recoup some of his losses. 

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