Are You Having Trouble Paying Your Rent?
This guide was written for renters living in buildings owned by Akelius in Toronto, although the information applies to any residential tenant living in Ontario Canada.
Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained here, this information does not constitute legal advice, and we would strongly encourage you to consult a lawyer regarding your particular situation.
Are You Having Trouble Paying Your Rent?
Through the ATN e-mail we hear lots of questions about problems that people are having with their landlord, but as the pandemic has rolled on one issue has become prominent – having trouble paying one’s rent.
An unfortunate aspect of our North American culture is that it is somehow considered impolite to talk about money, and this is the first impediment that we have to do away with. Lots of people are out of work due to no fault of their own, and literally thousands of families have been evicted during the pandemic because they were unable to pay their rent. We must be able to talk about this. If you are having trouble paying your rent, or are behind on your rent, then it is important to know your rights and responsibilities, and it is essential that you know how the eviction process works.
When a tenant has not paid their rent, the landlord will typically issue a formal document called an “N4 – Notice to End a Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent”. Your landlord has to give you a copy of this document. You do NOT have to leave your apartment right away. The N4 document lists a date (the “Termination Date”) by which the back-rent must be repaid.
If you pay the back-rent that you owe by that deadline then the eviction will not proceed (it is very important to get an official receipt from your landlord indicating that your rent payments are up to date). On the other hand, if you pay the back-rent after the date on the N4 document then you can still get the eviction voided, but you will need to file a document with the Landlord and Tenant Board called a “Tenant's Motion to Void an Eviction Order for Arrears of Rent” with proof that you have paid the back-rent (so again, it is very important to get a receipt from your landlord proving that you have paid your rent).
If you haven’t paid the rent you owe by the termination date on the N4 document, the landlord will file a form with the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) called an “L1 - Application to Evict a Tenant for Non-payment of Rent and to Collect Rent the Tenant Owes”, which starts the eviction process, and also starts a legal process by which the landlord will attempt to collect the money you owe (the landlord has the legal right to pursue you for the back-rent even after you are evicted). The LTB will schedule a hearing, and will send you a copy of the L1 form and a Notice of Hearing. Here are the things you need to know about eviction hearings:
• In normal times hearings are conducted in a court-room like way, with lawyers for both sides presenting arguments, etc. During COVID-19, however, the LTB is holding most hearings remotely, either by telephone or video-conferencing. Some people have had trouble connecting by video to their hearing. If you cannot connect to the hearing, the hearing will continue without you, and with no-one there to speak on your behalf you will likely be evicted. So, if you have a video hearing scheduled then it would be a good idea to download the “Microsoft Teams” software ahead of time and make sure your microphone and camera are working.
• At the hearing you will have an opportunity to argue that you shouldn’t be evicted, for example, if you are able to repay your back-rent at the time of the hearing then you will not be evicted.
• You should get proper legal advice from a lawyer (you can speak with a lawyer for free at your local “Community Legal Services Office”, ask us and we can point you in the right direction), because certain circumstances may get you extra time to repay your back-rent.
• If you cannot pay the rent by the hearing date then an “Eviction Order” will be issued against you. The landlord will take the eviction order to the City of Toronto “Sheriff”, and at some later date the Sheriff will come to your apartment to evict you. The landlord cannot make you leave your apartment, only the Sheriff can.
If you are behind on your rent, it is very important that you start thinking about whether your family, friends, or your employer, can provide you with a loan to pay the rent owing. And if do you find someone with money who is willing to help you, remember that unless you are receiving the money as a gift, then the money is a loan that you will have to pay back – be careful not to take on more debt than you can afford to repay. This loan calculator can help you determine what monthly payments you can afford to repay.
If you cannot find a way to repay the back-rent that you owe, and an eviction order has been issued to the City of Toronto Sheriff, you need to develop a plan for the safe storage of your possessions until you find a new place to live, and you need to find somewhere to stay while you get back on your feet.
The eviction process takes time so there is no reason to panic, and you can stop the eviction by paying your rent (including all of the back-rent) right up until the day the Sheriff comes (but again, you will need a receipt from your landlord to prove that you paid the rent, and you must file a “Tenant's Motion to Void an Eviction Order for Arrears of Rent” with the Landlord and Tenant Board to cancel the eviction order). With regards to timing – under normal circumstances it takes about a month from the time the landlord files the L1 document with the Landlord and Tenant Board for the hearing to be scheduled, but at the moment there is a huge backlog of cases. So if an N4 was issued by a landlord today, it probably won’t have a hearing scheduled for a month or two. Remember you can stay in your apartment while you wait for the hearing. After the hearing, it typically takes a month or so for the Sheriff to come to perform the eviction, but the Sheriff’s office is also way behind schedule these days, and tenants get to stay in their apartments until the Sheriff comes. So you have some time to figure out what you are going to do.
Unfortunately, the only way to stop the eviction is to pay your rent (and all of the back-rent), and if you do nothing and ignore this, then you will eventually be evicted. So with that in mind, what could you be doing right now?
1 – Consider speaking with your property manager…
Akelius has offered rent deferral for some tenants in need, so you could try contacting your property manager to explain your situation and see what they propose. Tenants who do this may still receive an N4 form as explained above, but Akelius may hold off on filling the L1 depending upon your circumstances.
The problem with dealing directly with Akelius is that the relief they are offering is only temporary. Missed rent payments will have to be paid back eventually, so you could be in danger of accruing a substantial debt in back-rent by the time the pandemic is over. Nevertheless, this is a good thing to do right now, because it will buy you time to possibly find a loan, and to prepare a plan for what actions you will take if an eviction order is issued against you.
2 – BEWARE of “Rent Repayment Agreements”!
We haven’t heard of anyone being asked by Akelius to agree to a “repayment plan” but other landlords have asked tenants to sign these. The problem with repayment agreements is that landlords who offer them get favourable treatment at the Landlord and Tenant Board during eviction proceedings, and worse, if a tenant agrees to a landlord’s proposed repayment plan but misses a payment, then that tenant loses their right to an eviction hearing in the future – in other words, by signing a repayment agreement you could be making it easier for your landlord to evict you if you are unable to stick to the schedule and pay back the rent.
Again, we have not heard of Akelius proposing repayment plans to anyone – yet – but it’s important to be aware of this potential legal ensnarement, just in case. We strongly recommend that you speak with a lawyer before you agree to any repayment plan. It is also extremely important to use a loan repayment calculator to ensure that you realistically have the ability to pay the monthly amounts required by the repayment plan, in addition to your rent.
3 – Medium-term solution – the Rent Bank!
The City of Toronto has a “Rent Bank”, and it’s almost too good to be true. They provide interest-free loans to tenants who are unable to pay their rent.
Their phone number is: 416-397-7368
Here are some links about the rent bank:
4 – Housing Stabilization Fund
Another avenue to consider is the Housing Stabilization Fund, but this is only available to people receiving social assistance. Here’s a link:
To apply for this you have to go through “Ontario Works”, there is more information here:
5 – Use the Toronto “Daily Bread Food Bank”, if necessary
If you are having trouble affording food, then hook up with the Daily Bread Food Bank, here’s a link:
6 – Educate yourself further about the eviction process
While we have tried to provide an understandable overview in this document, the “Steps to Justice” website is a terrific information source that is written by knowledgable lawyers, so you can trust the information they provide:
These two other links from their site may also be relevant to your situation:
7 – Register your eviction with the Toronto Eviction Tracker
The Toronto Eviction Tracker is a tenant-run effort to make a record of the evictions happening during the pandemic.
This is extremely important, as it is very difficult to get information from the Government or Landlord and Tenant Board regarding the number of COVID evictions, the locations of those evictions, and who the landlords responsible for the evictions are. And so the Eviction Tracker has become a very important and valuable information source that is being used by tenant advocacy groups and politicians to show the extent of the evictions and to fight for tenants to stay in their homes.
You can see all of the evictions that we know about on this map:
And you can register your eviction here:
8 – Stay in touch!
You are not alone. The Akelius Tenants Network is receiving new information all the time, and learning from other tenants just like you who are going through the same thing, so please keep in touch so we can share the latest information with everyone.
Below, we have compiled answers to some common questions.
~~~~~~ FAQ ~~~~~~
Question: “I’m worried they’re going to kick me out. Can they do that? Is it legal?”
Yes, they can evict you for not paying your rent, but there are a number of steps involved that take time, so you won’t be evicted right away.
Question: “A friend told me that legally during the winter months (November - March) landlords can’t evict you, it’s an Ontario/ Toronto law – is that true?”
No, this is NOT true.
In Toronto and everywhere else in Ontario, tenants can be evicted at any time of year. Here is a link to a “Landlord and Tenant Law” lawyer’s blog discussing this myth:
Question: “I’m worried that I’m going to owe several months worth of rent and be in even more debt. Can they sue for it?”
Yes they can.
So it’s important to find another source of income, or to lean on the Rent Bank or generous friends and family, so that you don’t end-up owing months and months of back-rent.
If you don’t think that you are going to be able to pay the back-rent, then unfortunately you must start preparing yourself to move out. You need to start thinking about where you could live, and what you could do with your belongings, until you find another source of income.
Question: “Isn’t the landlord insured? So they’re covered, right?”
Maybe your landlord is insured, or maybe they aren’t, but either way they can still evict you and pursue you legally for any back-rent that you owe (either through a lawsuit, or through small-claims court). Being insured (or not) does not affect your landlord’s right to try to reclaim money that is owed to them.
Question: “Up until COVID I worked as a waiter and that industry has been destroyed. If I stayed here several months and didn’t pay rent what could legally happen to me?”
Eventually Akelius will evict you, and most likely they will pursue you for the owed back-rent, either through legal means (lawsuits or court proceedings), or by calling a collection agency to track you down wherever you move to.
The rent money owed is like any other debt that one may have (credit cards, student loans, car loans) in that a lender has the right to try various legal actions to get their money from the debtor. But if this happens, if months from now you owe thousands and have no way to pay them back, then you could always go Bankrupt or file a Consumer Proposal. (A “Consumer Proposal” is an easier, shorter, less-expensive, and less-severe form of going bankrupt. If you file a consumer proposal then all of the money you owe goes away, and collection agencies and lenders cannot contact you nor ask for the money. You shouldn’t worry about this right now as you still have time to get on your feet again, but this is an option if the worst happens.)
Question: “I heard from Akelius that they require 60 days notice before I can move out. They say I need to pay one more month of rent even though I’ll be gone by the the end of this month. Can they do that legally?”
Yes they can. According to the law you have to give them at least 60 days (two months) notice of your intention to move out, and you are on the hook for the rent until the end of that time.
Question: “I am behind on my rent, should I stay and try to make it work, or should I just move back in with my parents so I don’t end up owing more money?”
This is a tough question.
The pandemic isn’t over yet, and once it is, several industries (like hospitality and food-service) may take a while to get going again. Other industries (like delivery companies) are hiring, but finding a job is tough.
If you decide to try to stay in your apartment then be ready to take whatever work you can get for now – it’s only temporary. Stay calm, believe in yourself, and look everywhere for another job, and with a little luck maybe you can keep your apartment.
If you don’t think that you can do this, then it’s time to start planning to move – you need somewhere to stay, and somewhere to store your stuff. If you think that you are going to have to move, then it would be best to start making arrangements soon, because every month you remain where you are, you are building-up back-rent that will be hard to pay back, that you will owe even after you have moved out, so it makes sense to end your lease as soon as you can.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
These two other links from their site may also be relevant to your situation: