Bill 184 Changes and Their Negative Effect on Tenants
Part One: Taking Away Protections
What is Currently Going On?
Tenants can often come to an agreement with their landlord to repay what they owe over an extended period if they have fallen behind on rent. The best way for this to work out is by creating a realistic agreement with a hearing or mediation from the Landlord and Tenant Board. On the other hand, putting together a payment agreement without the board and instead directly with the landlord is not only unadvised, but can also hold a number of negative consequences. This especially makes itself known with the changes in Bill 184, making tenants much more susceptible to signing improper agreements due to intimidation and social pressure from their landlord. Oracle Legal Services will go into what you need to know about these changes and how to avoid being pulled into an unruly contract by your landlord.
The Outdated Rules
Before the Bill 184 changes, a hearing date would be put in place by the board when a tenant was facing eviction for unpaid rent, and both parties would have to be present in order for it to proceed. The day of the hearing, both tenant and landlord would either have the decision to come to an agreement at the approval of a mediator, or bring the issue to a board member at a hearing. At this hearing, tenants would be given the chance to fully explain their financial situation and propose a realistic agreement before a member of the board. In addition, they would have the freedom to address whatever repair and maintenance concerns present. Landlords would be required to address these concerns properly and directly.
The Current Rules
Once both parties have filed both an application for an unpaid rent hearing and note of eviction, they can create a payment agreement by themselves without having to go through the Landlord and Tenant Board system. The issue with not addressing the board during these filings is that the tenant is now under less control of the agreement, affecting their final result negatively. Not seeking the board’s assistance gives landlords the option of forcing a tenant to sign an agreement that they can not financially oblige to. They can appear at a tenants place and order that the agreement be signed immediately with no notice or warning whatsoever. If one feels pressured by this immediate and abrupt action taken by the landlord, they may feel like they have no other option than to sign. Many times they will do so without looking into legal assistance.
Tenants are never obligated to sign a payment agreement that has been abruptly put on by a landlord. If a tenant decides not to sign the agreement, the issue will then be taken to the Landlord and Tenant Board for a hearing as it normally would have immediately in the past. If a tenant decides to sign an agreement that they can not afford before addressing the board, this is considered a legal contract and the landlord can continue to take advantage of the tenants vulnerability. This leads to the possibility of the landlord obtaining an eviction order known as an ‘ex-parte’. This order can proceed without a hearing, giving the tenant no opportunity to defend their situation, and forcing them to abide by the rules as the contract was already signed.
Luckily as of now, a new standardized payment agreement form is available. This gives both parties the freedom to define the terms of the overall agreement. Specifically, question #4 on this form provides the people involved with two options that will decide what will take place if a tenant cannot make the payments in the agreement. If the first option is chosen and a tenant is unable to pay, the landlord can then continue the eviction order without a hearing from the board.
What Can Tenants Do?
If you are worried about being pulled into a contract for which you do not agree to/can not afford, Oracle Legal Services can provide you with Landlord and Tenant Legal Services, giving you the opportunity to defend yourself properly so you can feel protected during your upcoming hearing. If you want to learn more or would like a free consultation, call us today at 647-872-3484.