If you are a residential landlord or if you are renting your home as a tenant, you should be aware that your landlord and tenant relationship is heavily regulated by the provincial government. There are numerous important steps that need to be taken before ending a residential tenancy. You should speak with a lawyer immediately if you are experiencing issues with your rental property.
It’s My Property, Why Can’t I Just Change The Locks?
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) governs the vast majority of landlord and tenant relationships. There are some exceptions such as when you share a kitchen or bathroom, when there is a residential tenancy associated with an agricultural worker’s employment, in a hotel or for university owned student residences. For nearly all other tenancies the RTA applies. The RTA gives instructions on how to properly evict a tenant (in most cases you give the proper notice and than apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an order).
By not following the proper rules, a landlord can face some very severe penalties. The tenant is entitled to file an application at the Board, and the Board can order various remedies. First there are two kinds of payments the Board can order, they can order a landlord to pay the tenant’s expenses, damages, etc. up to a maximum of $25,000, which starts to accumulate interest if unpaid. The Board can also order the Landlord to pay a fine of up to $25,000. A landlord with an unpaid fine to the Board is prohibited from making any applications to the Board until it is paid. That means if you have another problem tenant you cannot apply to have the Board to evict them until your fines are paid. The Board deals with illegal lock-outs very harshly and large awards and fines have been ordered many times in the most egregious cases.
Along with monetary consequences, the Board can Order the tenancy to be re-instated which would defeat the entire purpose of changing the locks.
But What If My Tenants, Broke The Law?
The Board is very unfriendly to landlord arguments in illegal lock-out cases regardless of what the tenant was doing, save an extremely compelling argument to the contrary. Even in cases of a tenant breaking the law on the property a landlord is still expected to follow proper eviction procedures. The best course of action for a landlord when their tenant is breaking the law is to call the police to stop the conduct immediately followed by serving an eviction notice.
My Landlord Says He Is Going To Change The Locks, What Should I Do?
If your landlord changes the locks there are three steps that tenants should take:
- Call local police and explain what happened, depending on the city, some police will intervene by calling the landlord to try and help get the tenant back in. In some areas police will not intervene and direct tenants to the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit.
- Call the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit (1-888-772-9277), this organization is the enforcement organization for rental housing rules. They have the power to issue fines. The intervene quickly in lockout cases and they will usually warn landlords of a large fine for not letting tenants back into a unit.
- File a T2, tenant’s rights application at the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Board will schedule a hearing. You will be expected to bring 3 copies of all of your evidence to the hearing (such a receipts for hotel rooms, storage units, texts from your landlord regarding the lockout, etc.). You can ask the Board to order compensation, to let you back into the unit and/or to fine your landlord. A housing lawyer can assist you with your application, by helping you quantify your damages and prepare for the hearing.
The consequences for a Landlord who evicts a tenant illegally can be very severe, and if you are a tenant evicted without warning you may find yourself suddenly homeless with hotel bills steadily rising while your property is stuck in your old unit. Any party involved in an illegal lockout dispute should contact a legal representative immediately. Mehdi Au LLP has experience Landlord Tenant lawyers to work on your case.
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