A Reminder to Residential Landlords: Act Reasonably During COVID Pandemic

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Rabczak v. Dunford, 2020 ONSC 3031, involved an Application commenced by a Residential Landlords, against their long-time Tenants, during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ontario’s provincial state of emergency.

For nearly 15 years, the Landlords had occupied one unit in a house that they owned, while their Tenants occupied the second unit. In January 2020, the Landlords served a Notice of Eviction on the Tenants on the basis that the Landlords needed their granddaughter to move into the second unit so that she could care for them. After some negotiation, the Tenants agreed in writing to terminate their tenancy and leave the premises on June 30, 2020.

By letter dated April 17, 2020, the Tenants requested an amendment to their agreement to terminate the tenancy. They wrote that they had not been able to secure alternative accommodations because many Landlords were not showing units during the pandemic. The Tenants asked for an additional 3.5 months to find alternative housing. The Landlords were not amenable to this request, hired a lawyer, and commenced a legal proceeding to evict the Tenants.

The Court refused to schedule the Application for hearing. The Court noted that Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board has the exclusive jurisdiction to make eviction orders in respect of residential tenancies. Only once there is an eviction order, can a Landlord apply to the Court for assistance in enforcing the order.

The Court also appealed to the common sense of the parties, stating that: Finally, I note that the applicants have presumed that the tenants will not leave on June 30, 2020. The respondents have been tenants of the applicants for nearly 15 years. They agreed to leave in writing earlier this year. No one expected the shutdown of the economy wrought by the pandemic. It has left both sides potentially in extreme circumstances. I expect that negotiation among the parties, approached  with empathy for the situation the other, will provide the most efficient, affordable, and acceptable outcome and one that is consistent with the cooperation required by all of us in these very unusual and distressing times.