Tenant requests for help spike after Ontario lifts moratorium on evictions

After the Landlord Tenant Board ended the moratorium on evictions, housings supports and legal services in London have seen a dramatic increase in people seeking help. Kevan D. Ashworth / The Canadian Press

After Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board ended the moratorium on evictions, agencies that help people find and keep housing in London have seen a dramatic increase in people seeking help.

The board started processing thousands of eviction applications on Aug. 4 that had been pending and started to schedule hearings for evictions.

The moratorium had stopped all evictions on or after June 3, 2020, due to the financial impact COVID-19 has had on many in the province.

Craig Cooper, manager of homeless prevention for the city of London, told Global News that a month after the ban was lifted, calls to their coordinated access program had nearly doubled.

“We were averaging 100 calls a week through coordinated access, and that has doubled since the moratorium on evictions to 180 to 190 calls a week.”

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“Since the moratorium on evictions was lifted, our focus has been on try to maintain and divert people from shelters,” Cooper said.

Cooper said they are focused on helping people maintain current housing or help them find other options.

He said many people on social assistance struggle to afford the price of a bachelor or one-bedroom apartment in London.

Cooper said those seeking help have a broad range of needs. He said services like London’s Housing Stability Bank are available to help people pay first and last month’s rent or assist with current rent issues.

From March 1 to Aug. 31 this year, the Landlord Tenant Board said it received 660 L1 applications for non-payment of rent for rental units with a London address.

“Once the moratorium was lifted, we started to see an increase pretty much right away,” said Kristie Pagniello, executive director of Neighbourhood Legal Services for London and Middlesex.

NLS is a not-for-profit that is funded by Legal Aid Ontario to help low-income people with a variety of legal services like fighting evictions.

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Pagniello said that since the moratorium was lifted, the number of people seeking help to fight evictions has tripled compared to before the pandemic.

“Most eviction orders we are helping people with are for non-payment of rent.”

Pagniello said the sheriff is now able to act on evictions from both before and during the pandemic.

During the moratorium, she said a few landlords tried to illegally evict tenants, but besides that, they were not receiving any calls to fight evictions.

While the Landlord Tenant Board processed eviction applications between March 16 and July 31, 2020, the board told Global News it did not hear eviction applications or issue eviction orders unless the matter was urgent because there was a serious and ongoing health or safety issue at the residential complex or a serious illegal act that occurred at the residential complex.

Once a person receives a sheriff’s notice, Pagniello said they have seven days before their locks are changed, and they have to be out of the home.

“In some cases, tenants knew there was an eviction order against them and knew it could be enforced, but as the week (after the moratorium was lifted) went on, we got more calls based on people who were finding notices on their door and obviously were panicked.”

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To fight evictions, Pagniello said the best time to reach out for legal help is before a sheriff’s notice has been delivered because she said that gives tenants more options. After a sheriff’s notice is delivered, Pagniello noted there are still things tenants can do to try to stop it but adds the chances of stopping the eviction is lowered at that point.

In the event NLS is unable to stop an eviction, she said they would work with people to come up with a new plan.

The board has not fully reopened, with Pagniello saying it is only operating at around 25 per cent capacity. As it continues to reopen more, she expects more and more people will receive eviction orders.

Global News reached out to the Landlord Tenant Board for specific numbers on how many evictions were currently being enforced in London but did not hear back in time for publication.

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