Ontario Court Intervenes to Stop Landlord’s Worst Nightmare

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A few months ago we commented on a case that affirmed the long-standing principle that residential tenancy matters fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board. That’s what makes a more recent decision of the Court so significant. The case involves a truly unfortunate state of affairs, which can only be described as a Landlord’s worst nightmare.

In Davies v. Syed2020 ONSC 5732 a group of twelve York Region homeowners sued Mr. Syed. The homeowners alleged that Mr. Syed was an unscrupulous individual posing as a tenant in need of a home to rent for his family. After entering into lease agreements with each of the homeowners, Mr. Syed converted the homes into rooming houses and rented them to multiple tenants.

Based on the evidence of one homeowner, he inspected his property in mid-November 2019 expecting that he would find Mr. Syed and his family residing in the residence. In fact, what he discovered was a “shocking disaster”. He determined that Mr. Syed was clearly not living in the premises and that there were various other persons residing in the home, and that many rooms and spaces had been converted into single living units, “with families (some with young children) occupying individual single rooms each of which had been furnished with door locks.” Upon further inspection, the homeowner determined that his living room had been converted into a hair-dressing salon and the furnace room and cold room in the basement were being used as “sleeping quarters.” As a result of further investigation, the homeowner determined that Mr. Syed was advertising rooms for rent on the classified site Kijiji and collecting money from persons who believed that Mr. Syed was the homeowner.

The homeowners brought a motion without notice for an order evicting the tenants. Interestingly, the Court found that it had the discretion to deal with the case on the basis that, at least in part, the tenancy agreements were obtained by Mr. Syed on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentation. According to the Court, this rendered the tenancy agreements void ab initio.

The Court also found that it had the jurisdiction to compel the tenants to comply with various orders issued by municipal and fire authorities, which required the homes to be restored to their former status as single family residences.  While the Court’s decision appears fair and equitable from the perspective of the homeowners, it will be interesting to see whether any of the affected tenants challenge the ruling through appeal on the basis that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear a matter which is seemingly within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Landlord and Tenant Board.