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Ontario pauses enforcement of residential evictions as stay-at-home order takes effect

The CN Tower can be seen behind condos in Toronto's Liberty Village community in Toronto, Ontario on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The Ontario government has issued a pause on the enforcement of residential evictions after the province’s stay-at-home order took effect Thursday.

In a news release, government officials said the Landlord and Tenant Board will continue to hear eviction applications and issue orders, but enforcement is paused during the current state of emergency, except in “urgent situations” such as those involving illegal activity.

Officials said this includes evictions that were issued but not enforced prior to this announcement.

Read more: Stay-at-home emergency alert message sent to Ontarians

On Tuesday, the province declared a state of emergency that will last for at least 28 days. A stay-at-home order also took effect Thursday throughout the province, mandating that residents stay home except for essential reasons in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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Modelling released earlier this week showed that if people don’t significantly reduce their contacts, the number of coronavirus deaths in Ontario’s second wave will be greater than the first.

This is the second time Ontario has implemented a ban on the enforcement of residential evictions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Additional paid sick leave, eviction ban left out of Ontario’s latest coronavirus restrictions

“Our government will ensure that residential evictions continue to be paused for the remainder of the state of emergency, as long as it lasts,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said.

“We’re encouraging landlords and tenants to work together — as they have been doing for the last several months — to ensure that we keep Ontarians safe … We want to remind tenants who can pay their rent that they must continue to do so, to the best of their abilities.”

When the province first announced the stay-at-home order on Tuesday, a residential eviction ban wasn’t included, prompting calls for change.

Some commercial evictions are already temporarily prohibited in Ontario.

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Suze Morrison, the NDP’s tenant rights critic, said that the government’s pause on residential eviction enforcement still leaves people vulnerable and added that notices, hearings and orders should also be suspended.

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“Calling off the sheriffs at the eleventh hour from enforcing evictions that have already been ordered will not keep folks housed and safe,” she said.

Morrison also said there are “overly broad exceptions” that still allow enforcement to continue.

“Doug Ford has baked in loopholes you could drive a truck through, allowing any evictions to continue at the discretion of the Landlord and Tenant Board,” she said.