Is Everyone in Co-operative Housing Really Co-operative?

Housing co-operatives, whether non-profit or ownership models, do require some degree of deliberate co-operation. Naturally, there will be conflicts of all kinds:  many types of activities and behaviours, even if no criminal law or City by-law is broken, may breach a co-op’s rules,  and annoy neighbour or possibly both. When the rent, known as occupancy charges,  gets behind, the concept of “co-operation” gets stretched to the breaking point. Membership meetings are held, and the landlord who can evict you is — surprise! — your neighbours! This is much more personal than in a condominium, where a bank may repossess your unit if your mortgage falls behind, or the condo unit owner can lock you out if you are renting the unit, or a corporation places a lien on your unit if the monthly condo fees are not paid.

The most striking difference between co-op housing and all other forms of tenancy,  besides the charming aspect that residents are called  “members”, is that until this year, financial problems and evictions ended up in a different and much more expensive court process than all other evictions. At our legal clinic we are  eagerly anticipating changes that will simplify (we hope) the problem-solving for co-op members. On June 1, 2014, the Landlord and Tenant Board will become the arbiter of co-op disputes.

What is so monumental about this change, and who is going to notice?  We think that all agency and settlement workers might want to be aware of this, in case their clients live in co-ops. Also, social assistance office employees should be pleased: resolutions should be faster, easier and less expensive for all. We hope. For more information, the Co-op Housing Federation has put it all in one place, in their newsletter at  http://www.chfcanada.coop/eng/pdf/ONB/ONB2014-04.pdf

If you are a co-op member, you have probably received quite a bit of explanation about the changes, but if not, you should inform yourself. Decisions will still need to be approved by the members. You might find that you are the subject of the new process, or the decision-maker.

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NATIONAL HOUSING DAY: TENANT RIGHTS

High-rise appartment buildings at Kipling & Panorama, Rexdale.

This article is adapted from Rexdale Community Legal Clinic’s Tenant Rights presentation prepared by Alrica Gordon. It is intended for informational purposes only and does NOT constitute legal advice. If you have an issue with housing, tenant rights, are facing eviction, or for all other legal matter please call the clinic directly at (416)741-5201. We do NOT give legal advice online.

TENANCY AGREEMENTS

  • A contract between a landlord and tenant in which the tenant agrees to pay rent for the right to live in a rental unit provided by the landlord.
  • The Residential Tenancies Act does not require all landlords and tenants to have a written tenancy agreement or lease.   A tenancy agreement can be an oral or written arrangement.  However, it is generally better to have a written agreement

WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD BE CONTAINED IN THE AGREEMENT

  • The date the tenant will move into the rental unit
  • The rent amount
  • The date rent is to be paid
  • What services are included in the rent (such as electricity or parking) and any separate charges
  • The rules that the landlord requires all tenants to follow

SETTING THE RENT

  • No limit on how much rent landlords can charge new tenants when they first move in.
  • Starting rent will be whatever you and the landlord agree on.
  • There ARE limits on how much and how often your rent can go up

A pen lying on the Signature line for an agreement

RENT INCREASES

There are 3 main rules your landlord must follow to raise your rent:

  • 12 MONTHS APART

After you move in, your landlord must wait at least 12 months before raising your rent

  • 90 DAYS WRITTEN NOTICE

You must receive 90 days written notice  before your rent goes up.

  • GUIDELINE AMOUNT

The provincial government sets the guideline for rent increases for each calendar year.  The landlord has the right to raise your rent by that amount.

2013                2.5%

2014                0.8%

RENT DEPOSITS

  • A landlord can collect a rent deposit if it is requested on or before the day that the landlord and tenant enter into the tenancy agreement
  • The rent deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent or the rent for one rental period, whichever is less
  • The rent deposit must be used for the rent for the last month before the tenancy ends.  It cannot be used for anything else, such as to pay for damages

'Appartment for rent' sign

WHAT INFORMATION DO YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE?

A landlord can ask the person applying for the rental unit to provide information such as:

  • Current residence,
  • Rental history,
  • Employment history,
  • Personal references,
  • Income information (if credit references and rental history information are also requested).

However, the Ontario Human Rights Code has special rules about asking for information about the income of a prospective tenant.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING THE UNIT?

It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the unit and ensure that it is in a good state of repair, even if:

  • The tenant was aware of problems in the unit before they moved into it, or,
  • The landlord puts into the lease that the tenant is responsible for maintenance
  • However, the tenant is responsible for keeping the unit clean, up to the standard that most people consider ordinary or normal cleanliness
  • The tenant is also responsible for repairing or paying for any damage to the rental property caused by the tenant, their guests or another person living in the rental unit

WHAT SHOULD A TENANT DO IF REPAIRS ARE NEEDED TO THEIR BUILDING OR UNIT?

  • First talk to the landlord and let the landlord know what the problems are
  • Put all the problems in writing and give this to the landlord or the person who takes care of these problems (e.g. the superintendent or property manager)
  • If the landlord refuses to do the repairs or the tenant thinks that the landlord is taking too long to deal with them, the tenant has several options

CAN A LANDLORD ENTER A TENANT’S UNIT?

  • Only under specific circumstances.
  • In most cases, the landlord must first give the tenant 24 hours written notice, stating when they will enter and for what reason.
  • There are some exceptions, however, such as in the case of an emergency or if the tenant agrees to allow the landlord to enter the unit

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF A LANDLORD ENTERS A UNIT ILLEGALLY?

The tenant may file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board. If the Board finds that the landlord has entered the unit illegally, there are a number of things that the Board may order:

  • the tenant could receive an abatement of rent
  • the landlord could be ordered to pay a fine

A kitchen water tap drips.

UTILITIES AND VITAL SERVICES

Your landlord CANNOT cut off or interfere with any vital services, e.g. supply of water, electricity or heat. If this happens, call the legal clinic or the province’s Investigation & Enforcement Unit:
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Investigation & Enforcement Unit
1-888-772-9277
http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/ieu

MOVING OUT

You must give written notice that includes the date you want to move out, and you must give the notice a certain number of days before you want to move out.

Personal belongings packed into a box

EVICTION

  • It is against the law for your landlord to evict you without first getting an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board
  • The Landlord must follow the steps set out in the Residential Tenancies Act

REASONS TO EVICT

  • You owe rent
  • You often pay your rent late
  • You or your guests did something illegal on the property
  • You or your guests caused damage or serious problems for your landlord or other tenants
  • Your landlord wants to tear down the building or use it for something else
  • Your landlord, your landlord’s family, someone buying your place, or the buyer’s family wants to move in.

If you do not want to leave or if you do not agree with the reasons in the Notice, you do not have to move out.  Get legal advice right away!

WHAT IF YOU DON’T MOVE OUT?

If you decide not to move out when the landlord gives you a Notice, the landlord must give you:

  • A Notice of Hearing from the Landlord and Tenant Board
  • An Application explaining what your landlord is asking the Board to do

LANDLORD & TENANT BOARD

  • The tribunal settles disputes between landlord and tenants
  • The tribunal enforces the right of the landlord or tenant
  • It is like a court, but less formal

LANDLORD & TENANT BOARD HEARINGS

 It is important that you go to the hearing. If you do not go, the Board can hold the hearing without you.  If that happens, the Board member will probably decide to evict you because they will not hear your side of the story.

 Bring evidence to your hearing:

  • Witnesses
  • Photos
  • Inspector’s reports
  • Work Orders
  • Audio or Video recordings

WHERE TO GET HELP

  • Your Community Legal Clinic
  • Legal Aid Ontario Tenant Duty Counsel
  • M.A.H. Investigation and Enforcement Unit
  • Landlord and Tenant Board
  • Tenants’ organizations
  • Your neighbours

If you are having issues with housing, tenant rights, or are facing eviction, please call us at (416) 741-5201.

Rexdale Community Legal Clinic
416-741-5201
www.rexdalecommunitylegalclinic.ca

CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY LEGAL CLINIC

Legal Aid Ontario
1-800-668-8258
TTY: 1-866-641-8867
http://www.legalaid.on.ca

Landlord and Tenant Board
416-645-8080
http://www.ltb.gov.on.ca/

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Investigation & Enforcement Unit
1-888-772-9277
http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/ieu

Federation of Metro Tenants Association
416-413-9442
http://www.torontotenants.org/

Community Legal Education Ontario
http://www.cleo.on.ca/

Your Legal Rights
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/

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