Comment 36553

By Andrew (registered) | Posted December 24, 2009 at 08:22:13


Thanks for the informative piece. Having worked in the clinic system, I can vouch that landlords will vigorously argue that the RTA (which is a pretty inclusive act) doesn't apply to their housing project, when it is pretty clear that it does.

As others have pointed out, while remedies are available, many tenants simply move on when faced with illegal lock-outs or random rent increases.

What a realistic solution to this problem may be is not clear to me however. While it would be great to think that (a) the City will really build sufficient units to fix the problem or (b) the City will fund a large enough investigations department to take the weight off of tenants, I seriously have my doubts. Both are expensive, and while the latter can fund itself if the landlords are sufficiently fined, eventually the City will get a strong lobby to tone down the investigations and would, I think, likely cave.

My experience is that the type of landlord--exceptions are always possible--that caters to this niche of the rental market is ignorant of tenants' rights (or simply doesn't care), is poorly funded (and frankly isn't getting rich off of these low rents), and is frequently absentee. Caring, quality landlords search for and get tenants who have steady sources of income (hello reference check). Those who are more transient are stuck with what they can get.

Leaving it to the private sector without some sort of economic motivators is not going to change this problem I fear. As much as people may like caps on rent increases, I think they discourage a lot of potential new rental projects from going forward. Why spend the money and face a strict regulatory regime, when you can build condos or commercial property, make your money and get out? Who you are too often left with are people who get into the rental housing market who simply have no clue what they are doing.

Frankly, it may be best to increase the potential damages a landlord might pay which may encourage contingency representation. As sleazy as that may sound, there is something to be said for private actors taking on the research and representation costs that go with this kind of work. Landlords will get the message pretty quick if lawyers are actively searching out bad landlords. Of course, that would just be another motivator to get out of the rental housing game, but I digress.

Anyway, the more I think about the problem the more contradictions I find. Again, however, thanks for the good piece Bob.

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