I have a number of social housing landlords as clients, so I end up doing a lot of hoarding and bed-bug cases. First I would suggest you not blame the Landlord and Tenant Board. They are generally following the law, albeit sometimes over-applying the Human Rights Code without using much common sense.
Hoarding is not permitted by the Residential Tenancies Act nor condoned by the Board. The problem is that the Human Rights Code is paramount to the Residential Tenancies Act and the landlord's obligations (and the tenant's obligations) under the Code must first be examined and exhausted prior to attempts at termination of a tenancy. If a provision of the Residential Tenancies Act is inconsistent with the Code, that provision has no force or effect. The HRC produced a Policy Guideline on Rental Housing in 2009, and it's oppressive to put it mildly. Thank you Mr. McGuinty.
Landlords flock in numbers to the Landlord and Tenant Board trying to evict tenants for having committed one or all of the conduct trilogy. To succeed their application usually boils down to the landlord having to prove that they have made efforts to accommodate the tenant's inclusion in a Code-related ground (usually disability) to the point of undue hardship. Undue hardship has been defined as being costs so substantial that they permanently and materially impair the viability, the very existence of the commercial enterprise. In other words, to the point just short of bankruptcy.
If a tenant fits into one of 14 protected groups under the Code, and you are providing accommodation to them, then you may have a duty to accommodate. These protected groups include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, physical and mental disability, sexual orientation, receipt of public assistance and family composition.
It always starts with the tenant creating problems by way of his or her conduct. Basically the tenant is not following the rules. If the tenant is unable to comply with these apparently neutral policies or requirements, a standard of behaviour, a behaviour that you or I or most of us would have no problem complying with AND if that inability to comply is based in the tenant's inclusion in one of the 14 protected groups, then there arises upon the landlord the duty to accommodate.
This apparently neutral policy or requirement that is expected from all tenants may include things like:
- Paying rent on time
- Parking in an outdoor parking space
- Not hitting people or swearing at them
- Not starting fires or floods
- Not yelling and screaming so as to cause a noise disturbance
- Not hoarding
- Not allowing infestation
- Not running a crack house
- Not doing damage to the unit
- Not listening to music at loud volumes
- Accommodation is different from toleration. It doesn't mean you do nothing or "live with it" and hope it goes away.
- Accommodation is not simply warning the tenant that if they don't change their ways, the tenancy might be at risk.
At a hearing, the Landlord and Tenant Board has the jurisdiction and obligation to consider the Code and the landlord’s duty to accommodate, and too often, it does it badly. By badly, I mean that many Members grossly over-apply the code. They also tend to do a poor job in fact-finding insofar as determining:
• The existence of a disability
• The seriousness of the disability
• What affect that disability had on the tenant’s alleged behaviour
• What efforts the tenant made to advise the landlord of their need for accommodation
• What efforts the tenant made to be part of the accommodation process
• What is the connection between the disability and the tenant's conduct
These issues are the keys for you in defending a tenant's claim that they are entitled to relief from eviction under the Code. At a hearing a tenant must be held to strict proof of those issues I've just listed. If the Board doesn't give you the leeway and latitude to cross-examine on these issues, then you need to get your displeasure on the record, and file a review or if necessary, an appeal of the adverse decision
Having said that, if you know or ought to know that the behaviour may be the result of the tenant's inclusion in one of the 14 protected groups and you don't take action (and document it) prior to starting the eviction proceedings, then you've not done your job and under Ontario law, you don't deserve the eviction order.
The Code is the Code. It is what it is. In my opinion, the effects of the application of the Code on housing are perverse. What is more perverse is that the poverty activist community, often funded by tax dollars from Legal Aid Ontario, use the Code to thwart evictions where safety is an issue. Look at 200 Wellesley. Now I have no insider knowledge of this file, but I can tell you that most landlords are now throwing up their hands when faced with hoarding as they know that the legal clinics will be all over it, claiming that the tenant has post-traumatic-stress-disorder or schizophrenia and that the landlord recklessly ignored the (invisible) signs of the tenant's illness in a flagrant violation of their requirements under the Code. I wonder how many buildings have to become un-inhabitable or how many people must die in fires before this stops.
I would urge you to read the Human Rights Commission's policy guideline on Human Rights in Rental Housing. You can find it here.
Ontario Human Rights Code Rental Housing Policy Guideline
It is a 110 page tome of pure social engineering that has me advising my small landlord clients to get out of the business. The risk is too high; the downside too great.