Landlord Advocacy and Politics

June 25th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Landlord Advocacy, Property Management

Everybody Wins

I got banned from the Ontario Landlord’s Forum the other day. I have never been banned from anywhere on the internet. I’ve only been going there for a while and they are a group of experienced landlords but they are angry as hell. I am a troublemaker because I say things the way I see them; that can be very unpopular. Some of the more unpopular things I believe in are…

  • The industry needs to learn how to treat tenants like valuable customers
  • Better business practices for landlords of all kinds
  • Small landlords need to learn about proper property management, hopefully before they buy and get themselves in trouble
  • Not every landlord is good just because they are a landlord
  • 90% of tenants are good
  • We should learn from the very effective tenant advocates and copy what they do to get our issues resolved
  • Finally effective landlord advocacy should be apolitical (That’s what got me banned)

See almost every thread over there winds off in criticism of the current government. Now if you know anything about people and negotiation in general you will immediately recognize the problem with this kind of thinking.

Political Landlord – Your government sucks, you are a jerk, help me!

Politician – Buzz off! Don’t come back!

Then there’s the other problem with this thinking, landlords are a small minority and will never control as many votes as tenants; no politician of any party is likely to support an initiative to abolish the Landlord & Tenant Board for instance. Because we will never have enough votes we must work with whichever party happens to be in power at the time. Let’s face it there is a pretty easy to spot pattern in the rise and fall of the party as they get elected, get lazy, do stupid things and get voted out. Our properties don’t go anywhere. Having said that, do what you want on your own time and vote for who ever you think will help your cause.

We need to be smart to address the inequities that, we as landlords, face. Here’s a list of issues that could easily be addressed. No one, not even tenant advocates support the horrible professional tenants that really prey on landlords. No one supports bedbugs. No one supports long wait times at the Landlord & Tenant Board.

So what would be some initiatives that would be win-win and better the business environment for landlords?

1. Tenants cannot appeal their Landlord & Tenant board judgment to Divisional Court without paying arrears to the Landlord & Tenant Board.

Currently any tenant with a non-payment of rent case can appeal their case to Divisional Court. This delays their eviction. The purpose of Divisional Court is to decide matters of law not to delay your eviction. It is a giant waste of this higher court’s time and resources. The landlord must then hire a very expensive litigation lawyer to quash the case. (Quash means that the lawyer says there is absolutely no basis in law for this appeal)

An example of a case that will eventually deserve to be in Divisional Court is the non-smoking provision in leases which are not upheld in leases by the Landlord & Tenant Board. You can’t smoke in a restaurant or any other business but you can smoke your face off in a rental building and no one can do anything about it. For crying out loud building landlords would love to be able to kick people out who pollute the building hallways with marijuana smoke. Everyone has to breathe it and staff receive endless complaints about it.

Non-Payment of rent cases and evictions are as straightforward as it gets. Did you pay your rent? No? Get out. What is the grounds to appeal that? Nothing that’s what. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to appeal this except to delay the eviction another 3-4 months. Still if there were some error in law concerning the eviction it could definitely be appealed… if the rent arrears were paid into the Landlord & Tenant Board before filing. This way we get rid of those who are just playing the system and allow legitimate cases to continue.

Win for Landlords – An enormous risk of going without rent for 9 months or a year is removed plus lawyer costs. This kind of case can easily bankrupt a small landlord.

Win for Politician – Look good by eliminating waste of Divisional Court resources without affecting any decent tenants in any way whatsoever.

Win for Tenants – Penalizes the really horrible professional tenants that give all tenants a bad name without affecting any other tenants at all.

2.  Hire More Adjudicators for the Landlord & Tenant Board

Since the Residential Tenancies Act was put into law, default judgments are no longer allowed. Every tenant gets a hearing. I don’t have much of a problem with that because a great deal of the tenants that didn’t fill out their forms to avoid a default judgment don’t show up anyways. I used to get about 60% of my non-payment of rent cases back as a default judgment. The problem is that now that every tenant gets a hearing the wait times to get a hearing have increased.

There’s also another unintended side effect to this problem. Tenants don’t get their cases heard, landlords with maintenance issues and non-payment of rent cases don’t get heard. The lack of time and the order in which cases are heard is a huge problem as more complicated cases take months to resolve. The last case I worked on with a legitimate maintenance problem combined with non-payment of rent took 9 months.

It also rewards non-payment of rent as an effective way to deal with maintenance issues which is very punitive to landlords. Almost every tenant who can’t pay their rent says they have maintenance issues. Some of them do but what usually really happens is the same mechanism that occurs to people who can’t afford to pay back their best friend. They pick a fight and call them a jerk and never call them again. Then it’s the friend’s fault.

Win for Landlords – Landlords already wait 16 days for their rent before they can file. You can’t serve on the 1st, the day you serve it doesn’t count and then you have to wait 14 days. Waiting another month or more for a date is too much. Reducing that time even a week Ontario wide will result in huge savings over all.

Win for Tenants – If there are more adjudicators with a lighter caseload tenant maintenance issues will be heard promptly. Currently the tenant cases are the last to be heard on any given court day this means that on many days there is just no time to hold a hearing. Last time I was there I overheard a tenant say that she had already been rescheduled three times and she was rescheduled that day as well. That’s three days off work for her and her witnesses.

Win for Politicians – They get to solve an easy problem in a way that benefits both landlords, tenants and the overworked adjudicators.

3. – Bedbugs Again Sorry

While we are busy fighting each other these critters are taking over. I proposed a solution to everyone’s dilemma a while back and even emailed Mike Colle and Joey Fiorito with a much better solution than the current one which is to introduce the Renter’s Right To Know Act in which every building has to disclose their bedbug status for five years after they have a case. This won’t work. Landlords have a very strong motivation to “forget” to give the tenants the form and an even stronger motivation not to admit they have a problem. My idea was better.

Post signage just like the signs on every single restaurant on the entrance to the building. People are even familiar with these signs already. If you have a bedbug problem then your sign status gets changed until you are declared bedbug free.

Funding for low income buildings who can’t afford to spray. Bedbug removal is extremely expensive for landlords and tenants alike. I don’t understand how anyone in their right mind expects a landlord charging $650 per month for affordable housing to spend over a month’s rent on spraying a single apartment. It just can’t be done. If a landlord wanted to address the issue there is not one scintilla of help available. Funding for tenants who can’t afford new furniture.

Win for Landlords – Landlords that need it get help and those who address problems proactively prevent the spread of bedbugs. Good landlords are not penalized for 5 years.

Win for Tenants – No bedbugs and an environment that promotes rapid resolution of any problems that come up

Win for Politicians – They introduce effective legislation to really address the issue and most people end up happy

I sincerely believe that by working in everybody’s best interests we can find effective solutions that address major problems that injure all parties. Small and simple solutions cumulatively will improve the business environment for landlords, housing for tenants and the politicians end up truly solving problems and promoting effective legislation that works for 90% of people.

Cheers! Keep your eye on the Prize !

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • mike

    The board is a last resort for us. Courts are so backlogged, eveb if we win, we lose in the long run. Time is $.
    Agree that not all landlords are good and all tenants are bad. I personaly know of landlords who behave no better than my worst tenants

    • Rachelle

      The unfortunate truth is that most cases at the Board are for non-payment not for anything else and I don’t know of a landlord that wouldn’t rather be paid. Except in those really rather rare cases where the tenant is unsuited to communal living and disruptive or damages the property.

      I was reading the report issues by the Ontario Board and 212 cases were appealed to Divisional Court. I’d like to track down those cases and find out how many of those were by tenants appealing their nonpayment cases just to get more time to live for free on the landlord’s dime. I haven’t had time yet.

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