Eviction is a scary word. However, what’s even more terrifying than the word itself is the realization that you may be forced from your home, depending on a legal decision. If you’ve received a notice from your landlord or property management company, it’s time to get educated on what to do if you’re going through an eviction, as a tenant.
The the first thing Toronto-based paralegal, Dan McIntyre, wants you to know is that you are not alone.
“The key is not to panic,” says McIntyre. There are options even after, as a tenant, you’ve received a written notice of eviction. You can also seek out guidance from your provincial or territorial tenant board. If the situation is complicated, you may need to seek the advice of a lawyer or a paralegal well-versed in landlord and tenant issues.
Look at the fine print to understand your rights
The good thing about getting a written notice is that the document contains important information that will help you. First, it states the reason for the eviction. The document will also state the date you must be out of the rental unit. While most people stop reading here, don’t, as this document will also list your rights in this process. Quite often, these rights are listed in the fine print, but reading this small print, legalese wording can really help.
For example, if your landlord is evicting you because of missed payments, or illegally operating a business from the rental suite or because of significant damage to the unit, you may be able to stop the eviction if you rectify the underlying problem. That would mean paying or creating a schedule of payment to repay the outstanding rent, shutting down the home-based business or paying to fix the damage caused to the unit.
It’s important to note that in most provinces, the reasons for the eviction will be reviewed by a residential tenancy board before the final call for eviction. While some provinces, such as B.C., PEI and Saskatchewan, will require the landlord to offer evidence of the reasons prior to the eviction notice, other provinces, such as Ontario, will only require an application and fee payment by the landlord to serve the final eviction notice. However, this does not mean this written eviction is the final decision. In all provinces, you have the option to go before the provincial Landlord and Tenant Board, to argue your case.
If you feel you are not guilty of the allegations made by your landlord — say, you didn’t damage the unit or your home-based business is legal under municipal zoning — you can file an application to challenge the eviction notice. In almost all provinces, the tenant pays no fees to challenge an eviction notice, however, you will be required to bring evidence to the hearing to support your claim.
If you are guilty of the charges, you may be able to appease your landlord by resolving the complaint. For instance, you could repay all rent that is owed within a specific timeframe (usually two to four weeks).
Quite often, though, a tenant is guilty of the charges, but due to good reason (according to you, the tenant). For instance, a tenant may withhold rent to try and force the landlord to fix a damaged rental unit. At this point, it may be a good option to ask the Landlord and Tenant Board for a mediator. Keep in mind, however, that even if a mediator recommends that the landlord must take action to fix the problems you bring up, the Landlord and Tenant Board’s will still consider you guilty of non-payment of rent. As such, be prepared to resolve your part of the complaint. Failure to do so may enable the landlord to legally evict you from the suite.
Staff lawyer at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA), Judy Feng, says it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence and seek professional advice to determine the eviction rules in your province.
If evicted, how does this affect your future as a tenant?
O.K. You were unable to pay rent or you were found guilty of breaking lease restrictions and now you must legally vacate the rental unit. Now what? It’s not uncommon to worry about how a current eviction will impact your future as a renter.
The first thing you need to know is that an eviction does not go onto your permanent credit report. However, in some provinces, you may be flagged by a governing board if a landlord were to do background research. Another unfortunate part of eviction is that you could lose what was once a good reference for future applications.
If you apply to live in a new rental property but are concerned that a landlord may find a prior notice of eviction, McIntyre says it’s important to be upfront. “Yes you had a problem but you’ve since resolved that problem and you’re looking forward to building a good relationship with this new landlord,” explains McIntyre. Just don’t be surprised if this explanation doesn’t satisfy a new landlord. Many landlords are schooled on the importance of avoiding irresponsible tenants — tenants that cost a landlord money to evict. Quite often a poor credit score, a spotty credit report or prior eviction notices are the red flags used by landlords to avoid potentially problematic tenants. It’s one reason why, as a tenant, it’s always a good idea to comply with your lease obligations and to avoid an eviction. It’s also why, if you are under financial duress, you should speak to your landlord about the situation early, so you can find a solution that helps both of you and avoids potential legal action.