City is suing province over criticism of bill that will make evictions too easy for homeowners

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Toronto City Council has embarked on debate on the province’s controversial Bill 184 – a new law that critics say makes it too easy for landlords to evict tenants who have fallen behind in their rent.The council voted on Thursday to launch a legal challenge against the bill. They say its provisions will hamper tenants’ right to a full and fair hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board, a provincial court that hears disputes between tenants and landlords.

That, combined with the lifting of a provincial moratorium on evictions, will lead to crushing homelessness, according to the Coun. Gord Perks, mover of the motion for a court challenge.

“This problem – this horrible problem, which we can see on our streets in the form of campsites and people sleeping rough on the sidewalks – will increase disproportionately in the city of Toronto,” he said.

Perk’s motion was carried by 22 to 2 votes.

Coun. Gord Perks, who represents Ward 4 of Parkdale-High Park, says Bill 184, combined with lifting a provincial moratorium on evictions, could increase the city’s homeless population. (Turgut Yeter / CBC)

Councilors argued that more than 3,000 pending evictions have been suspended by the province’s moratorium.

Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, has warned that Bill 184 will handcuff the most vulnerable tenants who have fallen behind on their rent payments and who are often unsure of their legal rights.

“I can’t imagine that during a global pandemic what you are trying to do is throw grandma and grandpa on the streets as fast as you can,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense from a moral or public health standpoint. ”

Dent and advocates for other tenants argue that while currently all disputes over evictions and rent arrears must be heard by the Landlord and Tenant Board – some of which result in rental repayment plans – the draft law would allow landlords to bypass the commission, offer tenants their own repayment plan and, in many cases, speed up the eviction process.

However, the government of Premier Doug Ford says the law will “strengthen protections for tenants and make it easier to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.”

An official from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing previously explained in an email to CBC News that if an agreement is made between landlord and tenant, it still needs to go to council for approval, and if approved, the council issue a consent order.

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

Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents Ward 2 of central Etobicoke, fears the legal challenge may act as a deterrent to current and potential homeowners. He says that’s not a useful message during a housing shortage. (Paul Smith / CBC News)

Coun. Stephen Holyday, who voted against Perks’ motion, argued that during a severe housing shortage, the city should not discourage people from owning property.

“Who wants to get into the owner’s business? I think the city could do a lot to help small landlords come forward and solve some of the housing issues in this city, ”he said.

“And one of those major elements is getting a reasonable, fair, equitable and efficient regulatory framework that protects both tenants and landlords. ”

He also questioned the expenses incurred in the challenge: “This is another example of using taxpayer money to fight taxpayer money,” he said. “I wish we had just paid attention to the immediate needs of the city, rather than waging larger political battles. ”

Mayor John Tory voted in favor of the challenge, despite his belief that it is by no means a slam dunk that the city will win.

“It is an uphill struggle because the law, the Constitution, the way in which these legal and constitutional responsibilities are distributed, plead strongly against us,” he said.

“But you can’t win if you don’t try. “

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