Ontario Exploring Moratorium on Residential Evictions During Lockdown

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UPDATE: On January 14, Legal Affairs Canada confirmed there will be no enforcement of evictions or writs of possession removing a person from their place of residence.

While the Ford government announced the province’s second state of emergency and other measures aimed at slowing the rise in daily coronavirus cases, including a stay-at-home order, the much-needed ban on residential evictions was noticeably left out.

Premier Ford made the announcement at Queen’s Park on Tuesday and said the latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences.

“That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order,” Ford said.

Under the stay-at-home order, residents are required to stay at home starting on Thursday, January 14, except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.

“By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives,” said Ford.

READ: What Ford’s New COVID Measures Mean for the Ontario Construction Industry

Though Ford briefly mentioned suspending evictions during his announcement, the province didn’t provide any further details on the issue until later in the afternoon when the Ontario government released a press release that said officials are exploring putting a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place.

“The government knows that in order to keep Ontarians safe, it is important that they are not forced to leave their homes during the new state of emergency,” reads a release sent to Toronto Storeys. “Ontario is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place, and will have more to say in the coming days.”

Premier Ford’s announcement follows months of protests from tenants and tenant advocacy groups who believe no one should be evicted from their home amid the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, tenants in neighbourhoods from Rexdale to Parkdale, Crescent Town to Markham and Eglinton, have been organizing to defend their right to their homes.

According to ACORN Toronto, more than 6,000 applications to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent were processed by the Landlord and Tenant Board between March 17 and July 19 of this year, despite Premier Ford promising that no one would be kicked out of their homes for missing rent payments during COVID-19.

For months, tenants and advocacy groups have been calling on Mayor John Tory to issue a ban on evictions, but Toronto’s mayor has repeatedly said that it is not within his power to do so.

Throughout the summer, residents protested outside of Tory’s condo building, to which, the mayor responded by reminding the public that he has no power in banning evictions and that the issue is a provincial matter, as he does not have any control over the provincial Residential Tenancies Act.

“My authority, even during the emergency, only extends to things the city council itself could do during times when it is meeting,” said Mayor Tory. “I don’t have some magical powers, I wish sometimes that I did.”

However, following Premier Ford’s latest announcement, Mayor Tory expressed his support to stop evictions, saying the Ontario government should “solidify its commitment” to do so as the jurisdiction falls under provincial responsibility.

“People should not be put out of their housing during a health emergency,” said Mayor Tory.

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