Tag Archives: housing

Navigating the Eviction Relief Labyrinth

Pearl River     All of the headlines read that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had directed no evictions for the rest of the year.  Before we do the happy dance, it’s best to read the fine print, because there is a lot of it.  For those force fed the biblical traditions in their youth, you might remember, and for others welcome to the story, how difficult it is for a rich man to get to heaven, another story in that tradition.  Reportedly, it would be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle.  That’s a mental picture not soon forgotten!  Remember that as you read the details on not being evicted, because you may come to believe it might have been easier to crawl through the eye of a needle as well.

Income at first glance seems not to be the issue.  Couples can make less than $200,000 and individual’s less than $100,000 in something called “expected income.”  If you’re waiting at the dock for your ship to come in, make sure the load is less than these figures.  If you received a stimulus check with a letter from President Trump earlier in the year, you should qualify on this score automatically.

Initially, I read that you had to have lost income because of Covid-19.  It seems that if you can establish “substantial” decrease in household income or “extraordinary” out-of-pocket medical bills, defined as over 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, you’re good to go on this count.

Here’s a kicker though.  The CDC order is not a rent relief, amnesty, or a moratorium.  It claims to be eviction relief, which is a big difference.  You have to be making your best effort to pay your rent in a timely fashion with partial payments as near the full bill as your fixed expenses will allow.  I can already hear the office phones ringing off the hook in a couple of weeks when tenants are being evicted for nonpayment and didn’t understand they needed to treat the landlord like a layaway and put something down every month and on the due date.

That’s not all of course.  Even if you hit the marks so far, you also have to prove that you would be homeless, forced into a spot even more expensive and past your budget, or squeezed into an overcrowded situation where Covid-19 might be your roommate.

Make it through all that and maybe you might be in the clear, but your landlord can be the devil in these details, given how subjective many of them are, and toss you out, claiming you aren’t qualified.  At that point, heaven was a dream, and you are now in housing hell.

The CDC suggests you write a declaration of sorts, kind of a self-certification so you will be ready for war.  Advice in the Times suggests you get ready for housing court or find a lawyer.  We must be talking about some high-end evictions in some fine cities, because most of this advice won’t make it for the vast majority of tenants being pushed towards the street.

Oh, and just to be crystal clear, come January 2021, if you managed to make it with your landlord through this year, you will still owe all the rent that you didn’t pay, maybe with interest and penalties.

The landlord who violates the CDC order, technically, could be subject to up to $100,000 in fines and one year in jail or both, and that’s if no one dies from the virus in which case the fine could be $250,000.  I’d have to see that to actually believe it.

Might be easier to watch that camel try to crawl through the eye of a needle.  Good luck!

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Double Crossing Tenants in Ontario

Pearl River     Helping with the ACORN Canada board zoom call was inspirational as always, but an eyeopener as well.

The good news included a win in the British Columbia after an extensive ACORN “internet for all” campaign with the telecommunications company Telus who finally agreed to extend the $10 per month basic internet access plan to all disabled users and many others.  Shaw is the next tele-giant in our sites.  They should throw in the towel now.  In Toronto, the report on the collapse of Google’s Sidewalk Labs fiasco, seems to have set the table for all of ACORN’s demands for senior and transitional housing to be built in the footprint, although it might take a year to navigate the bureaucracy to get there.

The bad news was pretty horrific, and, not surprisingly, it centered around the continued horror of Premier Ford’s Ontario government.  Early in the pandemic, Ford was clear, he had tenants’ backs.  He flatly stated that if the choice was food versus rent, eat, and he would make sure that tenants continued to be protected.   That was then, but what followed, to the horror of ACORN Canada’s leaders, was Bill 184.

When ACORN Canada’s president, Marva Burnett, said she was losing sleep worrying about Bill 184, I found myself shutting off the zoom camera so that I could Google Bill 184 and understand the problem.  The bill has one of those slippery names that sounds good, but too often portend evil:  Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing.  How bad could this be?  Turns out, it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and quickly was becoming known as the “landlord eviction” bill instead.

Currently, tenants appealing an eviction and landlords seeking one have to go to the Ontario Landlord Tenant Board (LTB).  Sure, there’s a backlog, but that’s the government’s job to fix, not blow up by tilting the scales towards the landlords.  Bill 184 seems to do just that.  According to a report in The Leveller, “Bill 184 would allow landlords to bypass the LTB and offer tenants a rent repayment plan which, if the tenant refuses, or accepts and falls behind payments, would give grounds to evict. Tenants could then appeal to the LTB, which is fraught with problems and complexities that tenants without legal assistance are simply unable to navigate.”

The Ford team claims this is win-win for everyone, but tenants are clear with pandemic evictions relief ending soon that Bill 184 is greenlighting landlords for mass evictions.  It’s also a classic case of not fixing what is broken, since landlords already had the whip hand under the LTB according to an analysis of the data.  As The Leveller reports, “Despite delays, landlords use the board effectively to evict tenants and apply for above-guideline-increases (AGI) to rent. In recent years, LTB data demonstrates that landlord applications for evictions and AGIs have increased, compared to applications filed by tenants.”

ACORN Canada’s Tenant Union and many others will be standing in the way, but thousands of tenants are facing evictions and Ontario is greasing the way for landlords to put them on the street.  Marva Burnett will not be the only one losing sleep in coming months.

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