How to win a landlord-tenant dispute
In a case heard in Waterloo, the tenant had a pet and lived in a building that was not subject to rent review. The landlord tried to raise the rent by 10 per cent claiming that since pets were damaging his property, he needed to raise the rent of those tenants who had pets to pay for it. The tenant successfully complained to the board that the landlord was imposing a pet tax arbitrarily.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, if you expect to win before the landlord and tenant board, you better be acting in good faith. Here are some recent decisions that make that clear.
10 per cent recent rent hike denied: In a case heard in Waterloo, the tenant had a pet and lived in a building that was not subject to rent review. The landlord tried to raise the rent by 10 per cent claiming that since pets were damaging his property, he needed to raise the rent of those tenants who had pets to pay for it.
The tenant complained to the board that the landlord was imposing a pet tax arbitrarily. The Board agreed and the increase was disallowed.
Who pays for hydro? In a case heard in Windsor, the tenant agreed to put the heat and hydro bill in his name. The tenant had poor credit and so he asked the landlord to put the hydro bill in the landlord’s name temporarily. The understanding was that the tenant would pay all utility bills as well as the security deposit. The landlord agreed to help out, but the tenant did not pay the bills.
The landlord asked the utility to suspend service. The utility gave one week for arrears to be paid and then cut off the power. The tenant went to the board, claiming that the landlord cut off a vital service, which is forbidden by law. The judge ruled that since it was the tenant’s obligation to pay for the utilities and he hadn’t, the landlord had not breached the Act.
When can you evict? In a case heard in Whitby, the landlord terminated a tenant’s lease because he was selling the property and the buyer wanted the unit for his own use. In fact, the buyer had signed a rent-to-own agreement, where he would become the landlord’s tenant with an option to buy the property at the end of the rental period.
This was not considered to be a good faith buyer. As a result, the landlord had to pay the tenant $3,000. It broke down as $1,200 for the higher rent the tenant would have to pay for their new apartment and moving costs of $225. As well there were damages of $1,600 for the inconvenience of having to move, the extra costs incurred getting the tenant’s kids to school and the fact that the tenant’s daughter had to give up a part-time job.
When to do repairs? In a case heard in Toronto, the tenant complained about the inconvenience caused by the landlord’s repair of the balcony in a small co-op unit. The 384-square foot bachelor apartment had a balcony that made up more than 25 per cent of the total area of the apartment. The tenant had no use of her balcony for 20 weeks and asked for a rent rebate.
The landlord claimed he had no choice since this was a decision of the co-op board. He did not however, give the tenant, among other things, the required 60 days’ notice before the repairs started. The tenant was able to obtain a rent rebate of 25 per cent of the total rent, for the entire 20 week period, totalling about $1,000.
The moral of these stories is that when you come to enforce your rights before the landlord and tenant board, make sure good faith is on your side.
Mark Weisleder is a Toronto real estate lawyer. Contact him at [email protected]