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Ontario commits to closing eviction debt loophole

Star investigation revealed that landlords were evicting tenants and then pursuing them for not giving 60 days notice.
June 22, 2015
By Marco Chown Oved

The Liberal government has committed to ending the practice that allowed landlords to evict tenants and then pursue them for not giving proper notice.

One day after the Star published an investigation into how MetCap Living Management Inc. and its in-house collections agency, Suite Collections, go after evicted tenants for two months’ rent, Ted McMeekin, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said he would put a stop to it.

“This practice is unacceptable to me. I’m committed to putting an end to it,” said McMeekin.

“If somebody gets an eviction notice and they move as a result of that notice ... the tenant is no longer responsible beyond the date of the eviction notice,” he said. “That’s the law of the land.”

Brent Merrill, president of both MetCap and Suite, maintains that the practice is legal. He provided the Star with a copy of a divisional court decision from 1993 that ruled a tenant was responsible for two months’ rent even after they had been evicted.

But the law governing landlords and tenants has changed since then. The Star found a 2013 small claims court decision that rejects the 1993 decision.

“At this time the divisional court decision that we have provided you and are relying on here trumps the more recent small claims court decision,” Merrill wrote in an email Monday evening. “As of today, our counsel feel that we are in compliance with the law. If the Minister of Housing feels otherwise then he or a member of his staff should pick up the phone and call us.”

When informed of the Minister’s statements, Merrill agreed to temporarily suspend the practice for any future evictions until the law has been clarified.

“If the law changes, of course we would have to reassess our position and we are happy to do that to remain in compliance,” he wrote.

Even though the legislature has risen for the summer, McMeekin was confident that an immediate change could be made using regulations that would not require an amendment to the law. But if a formal amendment is required, he committed to seeing it through once the house returns in the fall.

Cyrilla Hamlet, who was evicted by MetCap in 2012, was happy to hear that the practice that saw her get saddled with more than $2,700 in debt would end.

“It’s just wicked, very wicked,” she said. “I’m glad a lot of people won’t have to go through this anymore.”

Hamlet’s debt was reduced to $1,400, but it was also registered on her niece’s credit report. Today they’re both unable to borrow money because of their bad credit ratings. She says this won’t be over until they can clear that debt.

NDP housing critic Percy Hatfield said the practice has to be ended as a matter of fairness.

“I don’t think they should be penalized for following your order to get out,” he said Monday.“ (Landlords) shouldn’t be attacking and going after the people who can’t pay your rent because now you’re tacking on more bills on and they’re never going to be able to pay you.”

Progressive Conservative housing critic Ernie Hardeman did not return request for comment.