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Ontario must close 'loopholes' that allow landlords to hike rent: activist groups

Ontario must close 'loopholes' that allow landlords to hike rent: activist groups
From CTV - February 13, 2018

TORONTO -- Advocacy groups are calling on the Ontario government to close what they call loopholes in the province's housing law that they say allow landlords to offload maintenance costs onto tenants.

The groups -- the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- say landlords are taking advantage of rules that allow them to apply for government permission to increase rent beyond the legally permitted amount.

The groups say those provisions are meant to help cover costs of necessary capital projects but are instead being used to pay for regular maintenance work or cosmetic renovations that improve the property's value but do not benefit tenants.

As a result, they say, lower-income tenants are being pushed out of their homes.

The groups say the province must clarify what work is deemed necessary and require landlords to notify tenants before they start any repairs for which they plan to apply for an additional rent increase.

A spokesman for Housing Minister Peter Milczyn said the government appreciates the feedback from the groups, but did not say whether officials would revisit the rules on rent increases.

"We are always looking for ways to make the rental market more fair for everyone," Matt Ostergard said, noting the government introduced a standardized lease agreement last week, that takes effect at the end of April, to protect tenants from illegal terms.

Last year the province extended rent control to all residential properties, setting an annual cap on rent increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. The cap for 2018 is 1.8 per cent.

But a policy in the Residential Tenancies Act allows property owners and managers to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for the right to raise rent beyond the cap in order to recoup costs of certain capital expenditures or "extraordinary" increases in tax.

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