Repealing the Rent Control Act


In a just society, the ruling authority must decide what is 
right when allocating wealth to its individual citizens. The same 
ruling authority does this by intervening with the inner workings of a 
marketplace to uphold its fundamental values and ideals. The aim of 
government intervention is to create a just society that will reflect 
the people's values. Governing bodies do this by establishing laws 
that enforce fairness or 'equity'. The Ontario government passed the 
Rent Control Act in 1975. The law levels the playing field between 
landlords and tenants. New units are exempt from controls for their 
first five years after which the controls are put into place. The 
controls put a ceiling on annual rent increases. Under current law, a 
landlord may only increase a tenants' rent by 2% plus inflation.1 As 
with all other markets, the housing market is based on supply and 
demand. If the nature of the market were allowed to take its course, 
then the price of housing would become unaffordable for most citizens. 
An unfair situation would be created where power and money would be 
disproportionately appropriated to land owners. Rent control laws were 
established by previous governments to protect society and its people 
from inflated and uncontrollable housing costs. The Harris government 
now wants to repeal these laws. On June 25 the Minister of Housing, 
Al Leach, released a policy paper outlining the changes that are to be 
made to Ontario's rent laws. Conservative legislators plan to pass the 
proposed 'Tenant Protection Act' in the fall. The omnibus legislation 
will rescind the Rent Control Act, the Landlord and Tenant Act, the 
Rental Housing Protection Act, Residents' Rights Act, the Land Lease 
Statute Amendment Act, the Vital Services Act.2 The most objectionable 
change allows the act to lift controls off vacant units. The 3.2 
million renters in Ontario are very concerned about the changes.3 The 
housing ministry will accept written submissions from the public until 
August 30. Public hearings are also planned in hope that they will 
ease the transition. However, most people are indignant towards the 
idea. Changing the rent control laws would be detrimental to society 
as they threaten citizens' positive right to affordable housing, harm 
their mobility rights and increase the gap between the rich and the 

 The proposed 'Tenant Protection Act' assaults peoples' right 
to affordable housing. If people are to adhere to a basic standard of 
living, then the cost of their homes must be affordable. But what 
exactly is affordable? The Ministry of Housing released a report 
stating that 70,000 Toronto house holds (20% of the city's population) 
do not have affordable housing. The report explains that a tenants' 
housing is unaffordable if they are paying more than a quarter of 
their gross income in rent. This is an alarming thought since some 
renters are paying 70-80% of their gross income in rent.4 The problem 
of high housing costs is combated by rent control to allow people 
a minimum quality of life. Housing like medical care is not normal 
good or service. It is a basic need. Renters need to buy more than 
landlords need to sell. If the renter does not get a place to live, he 
is on the street. If the landlord has no tenant, he just has an empty 
apartment. In short, there is a mismatch of power in the rental 
market. The laws of supply and demand are unfairly applied against the 
buyer. Thus controls came into being precisely because the market does 
not work. Lifting controls would hurt people's ability to bear the 
cost of housing without serious harm. The government justifies this 
action by arguing that something must be done about Toronto's 
apartment shortage. Because apartments are offered below their market 
value, they are sold faster new ones can be created. Toronto has a 
vacancy rate of .8% with only twenty new apartment units built in 
Metro last year.5 Currently, two thirds of renters move once in five 
years. Since controls are lifted off vacant apartments, the government 
believes that after a few years, most apartments will be decontrolled 
and the supply problem would be solved. In truth, areas that are 
already decontrolled are not seeing new apartments. Instead of 
building moderately priced, modest apartments, developers find it far 
more profitable to build condominiums. Clearly, condos do not fall 
under the category of affordable housing. Yet, the province is making 
it easier to convert apartments into these extravagant units. Under 
the proposal, if there is a conversion, the warning time a tenant must 
receive would be cut from 240 days to 120. Even if developers wanted 
to build new apartments, the government's rationale is still flawed. 
When the controls are lifted off vacants, tenants will not be able to 
afford to move. Moving means and end to rent control. In other words, 
the mobility assumption that they make is wrong. With the price of 
vacants skyrocketing, and a notice that a tenant's apartment is being 
turned into a condo, where is a not-so-well-off tenant to go? Luckily, 
previous governments have established non-profit housing. Also called 
co-op housing, the Ontario Housing Corporation manages 1200 of these 
publicly funded housing projects across Ontario. On these sites 84,000 
units were sold to the low end of the housing market. They are 
provided to ensure affordable housing. Someone who cannot afford a 
condominium can easily take up residence in a moderately priced co-op 
apartment. This would solve any claims to affordable housing rights 
that people would be scared of losing under the proposal. 
Unfortunately, soon after taking office, the Conservatives decided 
that they would no longer support the building of non-profit housing, 
and withdrew funding for 70% of planned non-profit projects. The total 
reduction in funding to the O.H.C. was $82 million. This was done in 
light of a waiting list of 40,000 people. Funding needs to be 
increased, not reduced. 1228 units need to be built each year just to 
keep up with the exigency.6 How are positive rights to affordable 
housing supposed to be upheld after such a drastic cut? The government 
explains that they expect the private sector to support the low end of 
the housing market through the continuance of the Shelter Allowance 
Program. This encourages landlords to build and maintain affordable 
housing. In 1994 the government funding for the program reached its 
peak at $2.4 billion. This favoritism of landlords was fiercely 
protested by the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights. Why was the 
responsibility of affordable housing cut from non-profit community 
volunteers, and not landlords?

The C.S.T.R. had this to say:

"To develop housing for the lower end of the housing market if rent 
controls are lifted, the landlord lobby, FRPO, presents a list of 
demands: lower property taxes on rental properties, no GST on new 
building, no development charges for sewers, roads and parks. Home 
owners will pick up the slack for property tax and development charge 
shortfalls and everyone for the GST. These too, are a form of 
government subsidies. Yet, FRPO persuaded Mike Harris that the 
government shouldn't be in the housing business because the subsidies 
are too high. Ah, we get it! Subsidies are okay if they're being 
shoveled into the pockets of private landlords. But they are a bad 
thing if they're going to non-profit community groups that build 
affordable housing. Money spent on co-ops is used far more efficiently 
than the shelter allowances wasted on landlords."9

 In addition to subsidies, landlords say they will not build 
affordable housing unless taxes are lifted from the building process. 
The end result is that the proposed 'Tenants Protection Act' would 
cause no new affordable housing to be built. Only higher rents, which 
will result in more evictions. An altogether vicious circle. As more 
and more sources of affordable housing are disappearing, basement 
apartments may become the only ones left. It is not known for certain, 
but estimates number the amount of basement apartments in metro to be 
in six figures. Many people rely on basement apartments for a home 
simply because of the affordability of the unit. To their comfort 
Bill 120 was passed as the Residence Rights Act in 1994, legalizing 
basement apartments. Bill 120 also afforded protections to tenants by 
strengthening eviction laws in their favor. To their dismay, Bill 20 
was passed as the Land-use Planning and Protection Act on November 20, 
1995. Bill 20 gives municipalities the choice of weather or not to 
allow the building of any new basement apartments. Bill 20 which was 
passed by the Conservatives, is only a foreshadowing of what is to 
come. The proposed 'Tenant Protect Act' declares all basement 
apartments illegal again. The gains made for peoples' positive right 
to affordable housing would be lost. Declaring a potential supply of 
small apartments illegal would worsen an already bad shortage. This 
shortage of apartments will not be solved by lifting rent controls. 
This would only result in the further development of lucrative 
condominiums. With a reduction to public housing and the of barring of 
basement apartments, affordable housing in Ontario is falling left, 
right and center. The shortage is now worse. Affordable housing is not 
only vital, but is a persons' right to be able afford himself shelter. 
All of society is hurt when its citizens can not allow for basic 
living expenses.

 By ending affordable housing, the repeals to Ontario's rent 
laws would harm its populace by infringing on their mobility rights. 
The changes would compromise tenants' mobility by sentencing them to 
their apartments. With controls lifted off vacants, tenants will not 
be able to afford to move. Conversely, landlords who wish their unit 
to be decontrolled will have to force tenants out. This will create 
"class war" of landlord-tenant relations. Because landlords have the 
upper hand in the housing market, tenant rights would be jeopardized. 
This mismatch of power would result in landlords harassing tenants, 
withholding repairs, and eventually, evictions. Landlords have had a 
history of strong-arming tenants to get their wishes. With no rent 
control on vacants, they will declare an open season on tenants. 
Tenants would have little recourse but to take their complaints 
directly to the Ministry of Housing, and file a lawsuit to be settled 
in the courts. If the proposed 'Tenant Protection Act' falls through, 
the sheer volume of harassment complaints are expected to be so 
numerous, that the lawsuits would put an unbearable strain on the 
legal system. In the anticipation of the overload, the Ministry of 
Housing has established a complaint line. The 24 hour message system 
will be brought up to screen less important tenant problems and to 
declog the Tenant Complaint Office.7 Leach also plans to create a 
quasi-judicial tribunal. Complaints would be diverted from courts to 
the tribunal for everything from increases to evictions. Both parties 
would be given a short time to present evidence and make their case. 
Shortly after, a judgment would be made. Since there are no appeals, 
both parties would be expected to abide by the decision. If one party 
complains that the other has breached the ruling, the tribunal would 
send out their 'anti-harassment unit' to investigate and slap fines. 
Drive-thru justice? One-stop shopping? This 'Band-Aid' solution to the 
problem of tenant harassment will in no way protect tenants. Striping 
their legal right to have a say in a real court is only done to keep 
tenants out of the Minister's hair. When asked about the anticipated 
problem of tenant complaints Al Leach was quoted as saying: "We intend 
to keep them out of the courts as much as we can."8 Tenants' cases 
would be rushed through to keep the line moving. Although efficient, 
this does not do justice to tenants concerns. Even if tenants were to 
receive a fair decision that would ask the landlord to stop the 
harassment, it is not enforceable. The small, underfunded 
'anti-harassment unit' would not be able to deter the amount of 
harassment anticipated. Their threat to enforce the rule of law is an 
empty one. A joke. The government told the C.S.T.R. that it will 
protect tenants by doubling the fines for harassment. Fines could be 
quadrupled and it still would not matter because they are flawed in 
their application. C.S.T.R. states:

"Given that the Tories are slashing workplace health and safety 
inspections, food inspectors and virtually every other kind of 
enforcement of public interest laws you can think of, what makes you 
believe their promise to enforce 'anti-harassment by landlords'?" 10

 Anti-harassment laws under the proposed 'Tenant Protection 
Act' are unenforceable and ineffective due to budget constraints. 
Harassment protection afforded to tenants would become nil and an open 
season would be declared on them. The first thing that landlords 
would do to pressure tenants to move would be to deprive them of 
repairs. This sort of behavior is frowned upon by the government. 
Under the proposed changes, they shall show their displeasure by 
doubling the repair fines. Nonetheless this change, like the 
harassment fines, is an empty threat. Sixty percent of Ontario 
apartments are greater than 25 years old.11 They either need extensive 
repairs or they are so deteriorated, that they are ready to be 
replaced by condominiums. This fact plays into the landlords' pressure 
strategy nicely. If a tenant does not want to move, he has to stand 
and watch as his home degrades all around him. When the old furnace 
breaks down, he will freeze. When the sink stops working, he will have 
no water. It would only be a matter of time before the tenant realizes 
that his struggle is useless. He will have to move. Landlords have 
gone as far as charging tenants an extra fee of $180 per month for 
having "unauthorized appliances" such as washers, dryers, and air 
conditioners.12 If the landlord does not want to see his unit degrade 
for the sake of higher rent, there are other options available to him. 
He can scare the tenant out of his home. Landlords infamous for using 
strongmen for this purpose. Washed out boxers or thugs looking to make 
a quick buck are a landlord's best friend. Tenants are told to move, 
or else. If they do not get the message the first time, then the 
strongmen would reinforce their point. What is worse than no repairs, 
or the threats of an enforcer? Eviction. If a tenant does not leave 
because of the slumlike conditions or intimidation, he will be flat 
out thrown out. Landlords do not like to resorting to this, because of 
its expense and the time needed for the legal process. Evictions can 
take up to four months. But if the changes are passed, eviction may 
prove to be a landlord's pastime. The Residence Rights Act was passed 
by the N.D.P. government in 1994. This made tenants far more difficult 
to evict. Under the proposal, eviction laws under the Residence Rights 
Act would be repealed. Landlords would be given much more discretion 
in evictions. The time it takes to evict would be shortened and there 
would be no appeal process. Changing rent control laws would not only 
harm peoples' mobility rights in that they will not be able to afford 
to move, but insult would be added to injury in that landlords would 
not let them stay. Where would they go?

 They would end up on the streets. Repealing rent control would 
make the rich richer, and the poor, poorer. If controls are lifted, 
the inherent mismatch of power in the housing market would cause a 
shift in the wealth between landlords and tenants. Owners and 
developers would become richer from the higher rent their land yields, 
while those who can not foot the increases would be deprived of a 
home. The forces in the market would cause tenants to be caught up in 
an 'affordability gap'. This is because the cost of building housing 
has increased at a higher rate than average tenant incomes for the 
last ten years.13 The poor would be especially hit hard. From 
1982-1994, monthly incomes of tenants living in projects actually 
fell, from $717 to $661. Eliminating rent control is supposed to raise 
vacancy rates. However, vacancy rates do not deal with affordability. 
Since 85% of renters fall on the bottom third of income earners, empty 
apartments would come from those who could no longer afford them.14 If 
the 'Tenant Protection Act' is to pass, rent supplements should be 
worked into the proposal. Supplements would help tenants fill in the 
affordability gap created by lifting controls. This is not the case 
under the proposal. Lifting controls would seriously harm many people. 
Toronto's city planning and development department blames the 
affordability gap for the increased usage of food banks. They say that 
if controls are lifted, people will not have enough money for food. 
This will result in unmanageable lines at the food bank.15 Alternative 
housing is another housing program that is going to come under attack 
by the changes. Also called special-care housing, this program is the 
only thing keeping 47,000 people across Ontario off the streets.16 
Alternative housing puts up single mothers, seniors, the disabled and 
people who would be otherwise homeless without it. The Residence 
Rights Act protects special-care tenants from eviction. The proposal 
would repeal the R.R.A. to give landlords of care homes the power to 
enter homes without notice to perform bed checks. They would also be 
able to flash evict abusive tenants who fail to pay rent or damage 
property. This worries many because these are the people who are at 
most risk for homelessness. Special-care tenants are not the only ones 
in danger. Because of this decades' poor economy, the number of metro 
residents that were evicted doubled from 1990-1995.17 The combined 
effect of lifting controls and more powerful eviction laws can only 
worsen the situation. Those who are forced out of their homes to get 
their controls lifted and cannot afford a decontrolled unit, will slip 
through the cracks and onto the streets. There would be more evictees 
with a greater proportion of these people becoming Ontario's homeless. 
Such was the case for Irwin Anderson. Irwin Anderson was one of three 
street people who froze to death last winter. The inquest involved 
linked the deaths to a lack of affordable housing in Toronto. In 
particular, Anderson had been evicted for non-payment of two months 
rent. But he had previously paid rent in his apartment in the 
subsidized complex for five years. An arrangement for repayment could 
have been worked out. Instead, he was evicted. The frightening truth 
is that this could happen to anyone, even the well educated. 
Mirsalah-Aldin Kompani, another of the three who froze last winter had 
an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky. At this point, 
tenants would not be shouting about their right to affordable housing, 
they would be fighting for their basic right to a home. Their only 
refuge from the cold would be confinement to a crowded hostel. These 
may be no better than the streets themselves. The Toronto Coalition 
Against Homelessness states that people loathe these places and that 
affordable housing should be the central focus since hostels only 
offer a superficial solution to the real problem.18 Consequently, 
because of the affordability gap, cuts to alternative/public housing 
and flash evictions, repealing rent laws would split Ontario's middle 
class into two, putting half up in condominiums, while incarcerating 
the others in hostels. Since the strength of society depends on its 
middle class and its ability to keep people off the streets, the 
proposal should be rejected. 

 For these reasons, the proposed 'Tenant Protection Act' 
damages society as it attacks Ontarians' appanage to affordable 
housing, restricts their movability and erodes the middle class. The 
change would take away positive intervention and let the nature 
of the markets decide a redistribution of wealth. Many would live on 
the land owned by an elite few. This is not equitable so government 
intervention in the markets must remain. When the majority of peoples' 
happiness and values are protected against the advantageous elite, 
then that is a sign that a society is just.


1 Ministry of Housing, The 1996 Rent Control Guideline, p.1.
2 Toronto Star, Critics fear pending bill will 'strip tenant rights', 
June 26, 1996, p.A7.
3 ibid.
4 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, 
5 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996,p.A1.
6 Toronto Star, Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls, September 9, 
1995, p.A3.
7 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, June 
24, 1996, p.A7.
8 Toronto Star, Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says, June 7, 1996, 
9 The Tenant Bulletin, C.S.T.R. fights rent control reform, July 26, 
1996, p.1.
10 ibid.
11 Toronto Star, Province plans to protect tenants, June 25, 1996, 
12 Toronto Star, Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord, 
June 24, 1996, p.A7.
13 D. Edwin and R.Vogt, Basic Economics, p.56.
14 Toronto Star, High rents leaving no money for food, March 31, 1996, 
15 ibid.
16 Toronto Star, New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable, May 28, 
1994, p.L6.
17 Toronto Star, Anguish of Eviction Day, July 7,1996, p.A1.
18 Toronto Sun, Aid homeless, Harris told, June 25, 1996, p.15.


Dolan, Edwin G., and Roy Vogt. Basic Economics. Toronto: Holt, 
Rinehart and Winston of Canada, 1984.

Internet, Usenet. Changes to rent control. Tor.general. July 2, 1996.

Ontario, Ministry of Housing. Rent Control and Hearings. Pamphlet. 
December, 1993.
What is Maximum Rent? August, 1994. 
Rent Control and Tenants. August, 1994
A Guide to The Landlord and Tenant Act. January, 1995.
Information About An Order Prohibiting a Rent Increase. Fact sheet. 
October, 1993.
The 1996 Rent Control Guideline. August, 1995.

Tenant Bulletin. "C.S.T.R. fights rent control reform". July 26, 1996.

Toronto Star. "Anguish of Eviction Day". July 7,1996.
"6 agencies serving homeless allowed standing at inquest". June 27, 
"A free rental-housing market is not a level playing field". June 27, 
"Rent control proposals are attacked". June 26, 1996.
"Critics fear pending bill will 'strip tenant rights' ". June 26, 
"Halfway measures in rent controls". June 26, 1996.
"Province plans to protect tenants". June 25, 1996.
"Tenants get special line to snitch on a landlord". June 24, 1996.
"Helpers for homeless seek role at inquest into freezing deaths". June 
19, 1996.
"Rent controls not scrapped, Leach says". June 7, 1996.
"Minister of 'non-housing' rethinks position". June 2, 1996.
"High rents leaving no money for food". March 31, 1996
"Ontario prepares to scrap rents controls". September 9, 1995.
"New tenant law could hurt most vulnerable". May 28, 1994. 

Toronto Sun. "Rent control reform" June 25, 1996.
"Aid homeless, Harris told". June 25, 1996.


Quotes: Search by Author