Small landlords are exiting the rental housing business and selling their rental properties due to the Landlord and Tenant Board's (LTB) inability to provide timely and efficient legal recourse. This results in the loss of affordable rental units and creates a trend towards higher rents as the already limited supply gets squeezed.
The LTB is the provincial body that is responsible for resolving disputes between tenants and landlords, such as for non-payment of rent, property damage, illegal activities, overcrowding, and other reasons outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).
The LTB's service delivery standards state that applications to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent will be scheduled for a hearing within 25 business days, and that decisions will be issued within 4 business days of the conclusion of the final hearing.
On 25 July 2022, the LTB published a Service Standards Notice that states:
"Over the past two years the Landlord and Tenant Board has experienced significant challenges that have caused us to fall short of meeting our service standards. We are working to catch up but it is taking us longer than usual to process applications, schedule hearings, and issue orders. We are actively working to improve our service timelines and we thank you for your continued patience.
These persistent delays are unacceptable.
This means tenants are not being heard and their rights are not being exercised while small landlords are being forced to house renters who refuse to pay rent or abide by their responsibilities in the RTA.
OSLA has filed complaints to the LTB and to the Ombudsman who investigated the Board's problems. We have supported the efforts of landlord groups across the province who have engaged the provincial government and the LTB with solutions.
OSLA has also asked city committees and city councilors numerous times to demand that the province take concrete steps to fix the LTB to make it fair for both landlords and tenants. So far, our calls have been ignored which has sent the message that small landlords are not welcome or supported in Ottawa.
The LTB is the root cause for many issues. Perhaps the most concerning is that 10% of small landlords sold at least one of their rental properties in 2021. We believe this trend has continued into 2022.
Lat April, the Ontario government announced it is investing more than $19 million over three years to help reduce the longstanding backlogs and accelerate decisions at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). The funding will help appoint approximately 8 adjudicators along with their support staff to the LTB. While we welcomed the funding announcement, it is not the silver bullet that will fix the LTB's problems.
If city council wants to prevent the loss of affordable rental housing, they need to meet with Premier Ford and demand that the LTB be reformed immediately.
Adding restrictions and costs to small landlords, who legitimately must renovate buildings for tenant health and safety reasons, and to prolong the longevity and sustainability of rental units, would lower housing quality, reduce available units, raise rents, and encourage small landlords to sell their properties, compounding the loss of affordable rental units and overall housing supply.
"Renoviction" is defined as an attempt to evict tenants under the pretense of a required renovation or demolition, where none is planned or permitted. Any legitimate renovation is not a "renoviction".
Despite the claims about "renovictions" by housing advocates and tenant activists, there is no hard data or statistics to support the complaints. This however did not stop city council from approving the Renoviction Report in June 2022 that will lead to further restrictions, bureaucracy, and costs for Ottawa's small landlords.
The RTA already provides tenants with protection and compensation when small landlords seek vacant possession to complete extensive and needed renovations. Tenants can also apply to the LTB for recourse when they believe they have been evicted in bad faith.
It is time for city councilors to engage and listen to small landlords and to begin making evidence based solutions.
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) is the city’s biggest landlord, with approximately 32,000 tenants, and one of the largest subsidized housing providers in Canada.
Back in May 2022, CBC Ottawa published two articles that exposed the persistent issues "that plague those in need of and living in community housing where tenants experience ongoing violence, trauma and inadequate living conditions that seem to have no actual solution."
The first article titled "Living in fear" includes stories from some of the "dozens of current and former tenants who described never-ending violence and fear while living in OCH."
The second article titled "Living in a state of disrepair" describes OCH's "inadequate living conditions, from leaks to floods, mould, broken infrastructure and pest infestations, and broken elevators that don’t get fixed properly or in a timely manner."
Tenant and housing advocates lobby city councilors (and election candidates) to pass rental housing bylaws that they say would "preserve the quality" of the private market rental stock. At the same time, they intentionally disregard the public housing crisis at OCH.
Managing a large housing portfolio is a challenge but OCH tenants should feel safe in their communities and live in better housing conditions.
We call on the city to improve tenant safety, conduct timely repairs and maintenance, and enhance overall living conditions at OCH properties with the goal of preserving its rental stock.
Forcing small landlords to pay initial and annual licensing fees would not improve or preserve the quality of rental housing. It would, however:
In Ottawa, small landlords must adhere to several regulations related to property standards and maintenance issues.
Tenants and residents already have the ability to report property maintenance issues to the city under the Property Standards Bylaw and the Rental Housing Property Management Bylaw, which went into effect on August 31, 2021.
In addition to reporting problems to Ottawa's Bylaw Services, tenants can also file applications to the LTB to have their property maintenance issues resolved.
Landlord licensing would not solve any problems in Ottawa. It is important for city council to know that the existing bylaws mentioned above should be enforced instead of creating new ones that will hurt the people they say they want to protect.
The lack of skilled trades along with supply chain disruptions are forcing small landlords to delay or even cancel their renovation projects.
Buildings and rental units that require updating may not be renovated, and small landlords who want to build new units may not until workforce shortages are resolved and costs decrease.
To ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified trades people to help build supply, the City of Ottawa and the province should establish programs to further promote skilled trades, increase funding for trade schools, and incentivize business owners to offer more on the job training.
The Essential Health and Social Supports (EHSS) program assist residents in Ottawa who are behind on their rent and require assistance with deposits, utilities, and reconnection fees.
We have seen firsthand how the program helps keep tenants in their homes, but many tenants and small landlords are unaware of its existence. This means that renters who could have benefited from EHSS assistance could have been forced to find new housing.
The city should run marketing campaigns and information sessions to promote the existence of the EHSS so that more people are aware of it and more renters remain housed.
Last year, Nanos Research conducted an online survey that gauged the opinions among Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) and Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB) members on their ability at finding appropriate housing properties that meet the needs of multigenerational families and seniors.
One of the key findings from the survey included the following.
"When asked what the biggest obstacles were when providing seniors with accessible housing and living accommodations, Realtors in Ottawa said affordability (45%) and availability (22%). Of note, 56 per cent of REALTORS® in Ottawa said they have had difficulty meeting the needs of clients who are looking for multi-generational homes."
Secondary Dwelling Units (SDU) and coach houses are ideal housing solutions for seniors, multi-generational families, and large families. While the city's new Official Plan and zoning bylaws support their development, city council should direct staff to develop a strategy to support single family property owners to convert their residences into multiple units and build coach houses, including, but not limited to the feasibility of:
Reporting to either the Planning Committee or the Community & Protective Services Committee, the advisory group would be comprised of stakeholders from the private sector and Ottawa Community Housing, and be responsible for the following.
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