This question is from Carol in Toronto.
My husband and I have been living in the same rental for 18 years. For the past 6 weeks, our stove has stopped working and the landlord has not fixed it. He claims he doesn’t have the money. My landlord has been increasingly elusive. We have some evidence that he’s trying to push us out so that he can get a new tenant and raise the rent. The property has other problems with moisture and mold which could be affecting my health. In the past 18 years, he has only raised the rent twice. It would cost me far too much to move. I’m hearing that my landlord may claim that the landlord tenant act doesn’t apply because the home we live in is zoned commercial and not residential. There used to be a business located at our property before we lived here. I want to avoid confrontation, but the way the landlord is treating us isn’t right. I can’t afford to be forced out of my home.
Well Carol, this is a complex question. First of all, I’m not a lawyer and don’t want to be giving you legal advice. There are a number of aspects to your question.
- You are clearly paying below market rent. Rents in Toronto have gone up significantly in the past 18 years and you’ve been getting a good deal for all these years and continue to do so.
- In the province of Ontario, landlord tenant issues are governed by the residential tenancies act. If you have a dispute with your landlord for items regarding your lease, these are judged at the landlord tenant tribunal. As you’re probably aware, this is a slow process. But there is one major exception to the rules.
- The issue with the stove is not a landlord tenant issue but a property standards issue. The same is true for the mold in the property. That too is a property standards issue. The enforcement of property standards is not a provincial matter, but has been delegated to the city. A simple phone call to the bylaw enforcement office will have a bylaw enforcement officer come to visit your property. This is a simple phone call, and they will show up in short order.
- The province of Ontario instituted rent controls a few years ago. The landlord has the right to increase your rent. He can’t evict you simply because he failed to increase your rent all these years.
- The only circumstance that I know of where a landlord can evict a tenant for anything other than non-payment of rent is that they intend to owner occupy the property, something the owner of the property has the right to do. They don’t have the right to evict you because they don’t like the rent you’re paying and then turn around and rent it to someone else at a higher rate.
I appreciate your desire to avoid a confrontation with your landlord. But the fact that you’ve been without a stove for 6 weeks is unacceptable. In my opinion, you already have a confrontation in the sense that you’re having to spend extra money to buy prepared food instead of cooking at home. A stove is not that expensive and you’re paying your rent on time each month. Ultimately, you need to decide if you believe your landlord is trying to force you out of your property by making it too unpleasant to live there. That is, in my view against the law. The residential tenancies act is pretty clear about that.
Again, the purpose of this podcast isn’t to provide you with legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. But I can point you in the direction of some publicly available information that is easy to download from the city’s website. Getting bylaw enforcement involved is as simple as a call to a 3 digit number. If you dial 311 within the city of Toronto, you will be connected directly with the city.