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London’s plan to crackdown on 'renovictions' sparks war of words between tenant and landlord groups

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A tenants’ advocacy group believes the draft licensing by-law prepared by city staff is a good step towards preventing so-called ‘renovictions.’

“The tenants that are being displaced in these circumstances are among the most vulnerable of us, the disabled, the elderly,” explained Jordan Smith, chair of the Carling-Stoneybrook Chapter of London ACORN.

Some landlords have been accused of misusing N13 Notices to remove low-income tenants from their units for an extensive renovation in order to hike the rent.

A staff report going to a council committee next week reads, “Unfortunately for some tenants, following the rules set out in the Residential Tenancies Act seems to have become optional for some landlords who use ‘bad faith’ evictions to get vacant possession of a unit, only to raise the rent.”

London will consider requiring landlords obtain a $400 Rental Unit Repair Licenses from city hall and include an professional opinion that a unit must be vacated during the renovation.

Tenants would also receive an information package explaining their rights regarding N13 Notices.

“There’s some great stuff in there,” Smith told CTV News. “That being said, there’s one huge glaring omission in this report and that’s the financial compensation.”

London ACORN says the city should follow Hamilton’s lead by requiring that landlords offer equivalent accommodations or subsidize rent for the displaced tenant when an extensive renovation is underway.

On Thursday, a lawyer representing the London Property Management Association (LPMA) expressed opposition to the proposed licensing.

“Council will get additional money from the licensing fee, but it’s not going to help landlords and it’s not going to help tenants,” Joe Hoffer explained.

Hoffer described the draft by-law as an attempt at creating “positive optics” by municipal politicians despite existing protections being in place, “From the industry’s perspective, the Residential Tenancies Act has full protections for tenants and it’s unfortunate that council is moving forward with this by-law.”

Smith said London ACORN rejects that argument.

“We know that’s not true. Theoretically, we have many robust protections under the landlord tenancies act, but there’s no one enforcing them right now,” he said. “There’s no one guarding the gates, and that’s part of why these municipal policies are so important.”

Hoffer also warned that approving the draft licensing by-law could land the city in court.

“To the extent that the by-law contains an excess of jurisdiction, there is a good likelihood that there will be litigation, and that is a waste of time and money,” he added.

“I think those are pretty hollow threats,” responded Smith. “It is a provincial jurisdiction, but the onus has already been placed on municipalities.”

A council committee will consider the draft licensing bylaw at a meeting on Monday.

A public participation meeting will be held July 15.

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