A small contingent of Sudburians gathered outside of the provincial building on Larch Street Wednesday afternoon in protest against COVID-19 evictions and demanding rent forgiveness.
Rallies were held around the province on July 22 by Ontario ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), as citizens urged the provincial government to scrap Bill 184, which they argue removes due process when it comes to evicting tenants.
"It introduces a bunch of new provisions that make it easier for landlords to evict tenants with much less due process," said Jonathan Wong, a lawyer at the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic.
"One of the things that's very concerning is there's going to be a process by which if a landlord says that they've come to some kind of payment agreement and the landlord claims that tenant has breached it, the landlord can fast track and get an enforcement on that eviction and get that tenant out much sooner without going through the normal process, or the previous process of going to the Landlord Tenant Board tribunal to get an eviction hearing where both sides can be heard out."
The provincial government stated in a news release Wednesday that the new legislation "will make it easier to resolve disputes while protecting tenants from unlawful evictions" by requiring tenant compensation of one month's rent for "no fault" evictions.
The province also says the new bill will help to "modernize and streamline the dispute resolution processes at the Landlord and Tenant Board and encourage the use of alternatives to formal hearings to resolve certain issues and encourage negotiated settlements."
Hearings at the Landlord Tenant Board have long been backlogged and getting a hearing can take anywhere from three to six months in many cases.
"One of the issues that I think has caused a problem for landlords in terms of unpaid rent and evictions is that the process at the Landlord Tenant Board is very slow," said Allison Woods, lawer at the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic.
"That's due in large part to an insufficient amount of adjudicators in the province, making the wait times to get a hearing very long. However, I think Bill 184 making it easier to evict tenants and taking away some of this due process is a kind of quick fix to the problem."
Sudbury landlord Ryan Lafleur made similar comments to Woods, noting that a quick fix was not enough of a solution.
"It is (advantageous) but it's not good enough, it's just a quick fix," said Lafleur. "Landlords need to receive the funds, I have to take people to court to get arrears. Even then I went to court and they decided that I'd only get $6,000 of the $10,000 (I was owed)."
Premier Doug Ford imposed a no-eviction order during COVID-19, but the moratorium on evictions is slated to be lifted on Aug. 1. Sudbury landlords have had their share of difficulties with problem tenants during the pandemic, unable to evict people who have neglected to pay their rent for months at a time.
The timing of Bill 184 stuck out as curious to the pair of Sudbury lawyers, indicating that while the province is moving toward a full reopening, many people may still be enduring financial hardships as a result of losing their jobs during the pandemic.
"I think the timing of this bill and making its provisions retroactive to March of this year is particularly problematic," said Wong. "Given the fact that many people have been struggling with income, it's really the worst time that they can be doing this."
Charles Tossell attended Wednesday's rally, speaking as a renter who was upset with the Ford government's decisions not to provide rent supplements during COVID-19.
"We're demanding to extend the current eviction moratorium until the pandemic is over and the post-pandemic recovery period is over, and to enact a rent forgiveness program or a rent supplement program for all tenants at risk of eviction due to COVID-19," said Tossell.
"What Doug Ford could've done is hire more judges for the Landlord Tenant court so it wouldn't take six months to appear in court and have a decision made. If they had more judges it could take not even a month."