Fighting Renovictions: Toronto and its Tenants Could Learn Lessons from New Westminster (July 2022 Update)

One of the risks of being a tenant is the possibility you will lose your home through no fault of your own. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the “RTA”), landlords are permitted to obtain an eviction order from the Landlord and Tenant Board (the “LTB”) if they intend on demolishing, repairing or converting the rental unit to another use. This is commonly known as a “renoviction”.

In order to evict a tenant based on a “renoviction”, the RTA requires landlords to give their tenants notice of termination using the LTB’s form N13, “Notice to End your Tenancy Because the Landlord Wants to Demolish the Rental Unit, Repair it or Convert it to Another Use”. If the tenant does not vacate the rental unit in accordance with the termination date in the N13, the landlord must apply for a hearing at the LTB. At the LTB hearing, the landlord will have to prove they genuinely intend on carrying out their proposed demolition, renovation or conversion. Conversely, the tenant will have to raise evidence showing the landlord’s intention is insincere.

Below is part of the N13 form where your landlord fills out the reason for evicting you. If they select Reason 2, you have the right to move back in when the work is done. This is called the “right of first refusal”. Important: Before you move out, you must tell your landlord in writing that you want to move back in. See this checklist from CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario) for a step-by-step guide on a Tenant’s right to move back in after repairs or renovations, including a tool to help you write a letter to your landlord saying you want to move back in:

If a tenant is renovicted but later discovers their landlord’s N13 was a ruse, they can file an application with the LTB using form T5, “Landlord Gave a Notice of Termination in Bad Faith”, and seek various monetary damages from their landlord. However, the LTB does not have the power to return the tenant to their former home, which leaves the door open for landlords who are financially well-endowed to abuse the RTA’s renoviction provisions as a means of increasing the rent.

To deter landlords from abusing similar renoviction provisions in British Columbia’s Residential Tenancy Act, the City of New Westminster passed a bylaw in 2019 that was upheld by the province’s Court of Appeal in 2021.

According to the New Westminster bylaw, landlords who are caught renovicting tenants as a means of increasing the rent can be fined up to $1,000.00 a day, and lose their business license. The bylaw also requires landlords who want to renovict an entire building to first obtain the City’s permission, and therefore prove to the City that the renovations are necessary and cannot be performed if the tenants stay on-site. Landlords are also responsible for their tenants’ accommodation while the renovations are being completed, and they are required to send their tenants a written offer to move back into their rental unit once the work is complete, at the same rental rate. Although Ontario has a similar right of first refusal provision in the RTA, the onus is on the tenant to exercise this right before vacating the rental unit, whereas the New Westminster bylaw places the onus on the landlord.

While there is no guarantee that New Westminster’s bylaw will come to Toronto, there is reason to hope it will inspire some level of policy change. Toronto City Councillors, including Councillor Paul Fletcher of Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth, have expressed interest in importing New Westminster’s bylaw to Toronto.

As a July 2022 Update, the Planning and Housing Committee for the City of Toronto has prepared a report for a “Renoviction Policy – Creating a Framework to Protect Affordable and Mid-range Rental Homes and Deter Renovictions”. Some of the proposals include collecting data on renovictions, reviewing the state of affordable housing, and reviewing data that is not found through the Landlord and Tenant Board. A significant proposal would be requiring landlords to obtain a building permit prior to issuing the N13 Notice of Termination. This item was considered by Planning and Housing Committee on July 5, 2022 and was adopted with amendments. It will be considered by City Council on July 19, 2022. City Council will review the proposals on July 19, 2022 and if passed, the by-law can be expected for 2023.

If you have any questions about this or any other landlord and tenant matter, contact your local community legal clinic or the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations.
Updated and Reviewed by Victoria Wan, Staff Lawyer. Current as of 13 July 2022. Original Article by Bhavin Bilimoria and Zachary Morgenstern, Don Valley Community Legal Services, as published in Hi-Rise Newsletter, 20 May 2021.