Thursday, October 7, 2010

Solutions for Hoarding are Complex, Needing Regulatory Changes

In a Toronto Sun article today, Tamara Cherry accurately depicts the problems related to bed bugs occurring in many Toronto rental units.  But it's not just social housing high-rises like 200 Wellesley where compulsive hoarding occurs.  People renting from private landlords in basement apartments in the landlord's home to luxury condos, exhibit the same sad and dangerous behaviour.

So now Toronto Public Health and the Fire Marshall will spring into action at 200 Wellesley despite knowing about the problem for months and doing nothing. But what options does a landlord really have to convince tenants to de-clutter?

Commencing a legal proceeding at the Landlord and Tenant Board  is the government's solution, but it is most often ineffective because:

• The rules regarding entry into the rental unit are too restrictive;

• It can take up to a year to get a complex and contested case resolved at the Landlord and Tenant Board;

• The Board will not evict a problem tenant unless the landlord has first investigated Human Rights Code grounds that may be related to the behaviour and accommodated the tenant's (stated) inability to correct the problem to the point just shy of bankruptcy;

• Landlords know that if they take aggressive measures to throw out clutter, garbage and debris so that they can treat for infestation or bring the unit up to code, they will be sued by the tenant;

• The 70+ community legal aid clinics across the province will contest legitimate eviction applications (using tax dollars) doing everything in their power to defeat the landlord's eviction efforts and more often than not, the landlord's efforts to work with the tenant in remediation of the unit.

There need to be amendments made to the Residential Tenancies Act  and changes to Legal Aid Ontario's mandate of funding litigation that runs contrary to sound public policy.  Daily I lament the adversarial nature of landlord and tenant law, but it's likely here to stay.  But on issues like this, there is no room for ideology that pits landlords against tenants.

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