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Despite the province-wide moratorium on evictions in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a court recently ordered the eviction of a tenant after the landlord testified to property damage, alleged illegal activities and non-respect of social distancing directives.

What Happened?

On May 28, 2020, the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (“LTB”) terminated the tenant’s tenancy as of June 2, 2020 and ordered the tenant to move out of the rental unit on or before that day. 

The LTB found that the landlord had satisfied both the normal test for eviction and the higher test being applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, that there were urgent circumstances which required the eviction of the tenant. 

The LTB found that there had been willful damage to the leased premises and that the tenancy presented a threat to safety. The LTB based its decision on evidence that a large window at the front of the unit had been willfully broken and on the high frequency and number of visitors to the premises, which had not abated following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The LTB heard that visitors to the unit arrived throughout the day and night, that many stayed for only a few minutes and others for extended periods of time, including overnight. There was evidence that the police had been watching the property because of suspected drug-related activity. Another tenant, who cuts the lawn at the property, testified that he found both needles and small white baggies, which he said were of the type used for drugs, containing white residue. The same tenant said visitors to the tenant’s unit sometimes gathered on the driveway and that the noise from the unit disturbed him and the neighbours at all hours. 

In an affidavit, the landlord said that because of the tenant’s conduct, he was concerned about the safety and well-being of his other tenants, the building’s neighbours and himself.

COVID-19 Context

The landlord applied to court to request an order enforcing the LTB’s eviction order. The court application was necessary because of Ontario’s province-wide moratorium on evictions.

Decision

While the court acknowledged the moratorium on evictions, it stated:

“I certainly accept […] that these are not ordinary times and that everyone has an interest in having a home that allows them to stay healthy and assist in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite the extraordinary times, however, there is no moratorium that favours willful damage to property.

In deciding whether the eviction order should be enforced, […] the court must consider the societal objectives of the eviction moratorium as they relate to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. That a tenancy is being exploited for purposes which may actually promote the spread of the virus will weigh heavily in favour of enforcement of the eviction order.” 

Based on the evidence and the submissions by the landlord, the court found that the scale in the case tipped in favour of enforcement of the eviction. The court accepted the evidence that the tenant’s unit was being used for illegal activity and further stated:

“[T]he steady stream of people entering and leaving the tenant’s unit at all hours of the day and night, which continued unabated when the pandemic began, is evidence of the tenant’s indifference to the pandemic-related physical distancing expected of all citizens, to her own health and to the health of her visitors and everyone with whom they in turn come into contact.” 

As a result, the court ordered the enforcement of the eviction against the tenant.

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Baker & Company has adopted all of the COVID-19 safety precautions and vulnerable employees have been invited to work from home. We are fully operational and continuing to work on client assignments. Where possible, meetings are being held via video link or by telephone conference.

At Baker & Company in Toronto, our real estate lawyers take the time to speak with you and understand your unique needs in order to guide you through your real estate matter, whether commercial or residential. We rely on our broad base of experience and expertise to provide exceptional legal advice and risk management in a variety of leasing issues. Call us at 416-777-0100 or contact us online for a consultation.

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Phone: 416-777-0100
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