Hamilton may introduce municipal bylaw to stop ‘renovictions’

Tenants facing renoviction protest in New Westminster in 2019. Hamilton, Ont. councillors have asked city staff to create a comprehensive strategy for halting renovictions. Global News

The City of Hamilton, Ont., is leaning toward creating a bylaw to stop so-called “renovictions,” despite landlord-tenant disputes actually falling within provincial domain.

City council’s emergency and community services committee asked city staff Thursday to create a comprehensive strategy for halting what some councillors characterize as “predatory behaviour” by landlords.

Over 30 delegates weighed in during the committee meeting, including tenant advocates ACORN Hamilton, which has been a leader in bringing the plight of residents to councillors and spurring city studies since late 2020.

A consultation from the city’s director of housing is suggesting one option is the adaptation of a former 2019 bylaw in New Westminster, B.C., which featured a tenant defence fund to support tenant groups fighting termination notices.

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Another possibility is legislation for a fund landlords could access to pay for renovations on the condition that a displaced tenant would be able to move back in when completed.

The biggest hurdle for the city is that landlord-tenant disputes are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the province.

However, a legal analysis of the New Westminster bylaw, repealed by the B.C. government via changes in a residential tenancy act in 2021, suggests differing municipal jurisdictional powers in Ontario may open the door for legislation in Hamilton.

Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark suggested continued inaction could precipitate an exponential increase in homelessness if “renovictions” are allowed to continue.

“I don’t see the provincial government stepping up, and so we’re responsible for what happens here in Hamilton,” Clark suggested.

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The city’s action comes just days after Ontario promised millions to help deal with the backlog of tribunal cases between tenants and landlords while providing additional measures to protect renters against “renovictions.”

A “renoviction” is when a landlord seeks to terminate a tenancy to demolish or renovate the unit.

The announcement, made Wednesday in London, Ont., revealed $6.5 million would be allocated to hire 40 additional adjudicators to the Landlord and Tenant Board, more than doubling the current number of full-time staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already lengthy backlog of cases at the tribunal.

The province says the funding will help the board operate more efficiently.

— with files from Marshall Healey

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