Law Provides Relief to Tenants Who Are Victims of Abuse
As domestic violence continues to rise during COVID-19, survivors of abuse and counsel would be wise to know that amendments introduced in 2016 to the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, SO 2006, c 17 (“RTA”) help victims of violence terminate lease agreements confidentially and without penalty. Although these amendments are not new, their existence warrants attention for victims of abuse that feel restricted by residential lease obligations.
Tenants are often required to provide lengthy notice periods before terminating leases. In a month to month or yearly lease, a tenant is often required to provide a two months’ notice before terminating a lease. In a fixed-term lease, tenants must remain in the lease for its specified duration or find someone to take over the lease (if the lease permits), otherwise face penalty fees.
Under s. 47.01(1) of the RTA, however, anyone who is experiencing abuse is lawfully able to end a residential lease by providing the landlord 28 days’ notice. This shorter notice period applies to month to month, yearly and fixed-term leases. This provision can be used when a child tenant has experienced violence or abuse.
To qualify under this provision, one of the following people:
- a tenant’s spouse or former spouse;
- someone living with the tenant or in a conjugal relationship with the tenant;
- a person dating the tenant or who previously dated the tenant; or
- someone who lives in the unit and is related to the tenant or the tenant’s child by blood, marriage or adoption,
… must have caused the tenant or the tenant’s child to experience:
- bodily harm or damage to their property by intentional or reckless behaviour;
- sexual violence;
- fear for their safety because of the actions, series of actions or threatened actions that include the following: contacting, communicating with, watching or recording the tenant; or
- a sort of imprisonment or holding against one’s will.
If the victim is a joint tenant with their abuser, they may give notice individually or jointly with others, but not all of the joint tenants. This prevents the abuser from being alerted of the victim’s steps to end the lease.
To qualify for such termination of a residential lease, the Applicant must fill out the prescribed form found here and show the landlord either:
- a peace bond under subsection 810 (3) of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46;
- a restraining order under section 46 of the Family Law Act, RSO 1990, c F.3 or section 35 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, RSO 1990, c C.12; or
- a statement of abuse, the form which can be found here.
If submitting a statement of abuse, it is noteworthy that the act of violence does not need to be specified.
Section 47.2 of the RTA also requires the landlord to keep the notice confidential. Landlords can only disclose the fact that the notice was given or the notice with documentation to the following people:
- an employee, investigator or representative of the Ministry in connection with prosecuting an alleged offence under the RTA;
- a member of a law enforcement agency, only upon request in connection with an investigation;
- a legal representative of the landlord; or
- a member or representative of the Board to determine whether notice was properly given.
The RTA also allows landlords to provide notice to remaining tenants once the date on which the lease was to terminate has passed. Additionally, once the landlord receives notice under section 47.01, they may advertise the rental unit for rent. However, the rental unit cannot be identifiable from the advertisement if tenants are still residing therein.
Please also consider seeking assistance from the following sources:
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline (Ontario): 416-663-0511 or 1-866-863-0511
- Toronto Police Services: 416-808-2222 or 9-1-1 in an Emergency
- Legal Aid Ontario –24/7 Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-668-8258
- Children’s Aid Society- 416-924-4646.