Frequently Asked Questions

The following has been adapted from texts written by Parkdale Organize / Keep Your Rent Toronto, Greves des Loyers (Montreal), and Rent Strike Vancouver. Thanks to all!

ABOUT & CONTACT

How can I get in touch with Keep Your Rent Hamilton?

Tenant hotline: 289-779-0758 (staffed by volunteers 10am-8pm daily)

Email: keepyourrenthamilton@gmail.com

Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/keepyourrenthamilton

Website: www.keepyourrenthamilton.com

Social Media


What is this group? Are you a government agency or a social agency?

Keep Your Rent Hamilton is a volunteer, grassroots network of Hamilton tenants formed in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The group has support from seasoned tenant organizers and legal workers. Keep Your Rent Hamilton follows the efforts of similar tenant initiatives in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, and many other cities across North America and around the world.

 

WHY KEEP YOUR RENT?

Why keep my rent?

You will need it. COVID-19 may be a long-term public health crisis. The number of people who have lost their jobs continues to grow. The pandemic is already making life harder for the majority of us, and we can’t afford to assume it is going away anytime soon.

There is strength in numbers. Thousands of us deciding to keep our rent gives us the resources to better provide for the health and well-being of our families and communities. Social distancing helps stop the spread of COVID-19. It doesn’t stop us from taking the collective action of keeping our rent.


Why can’t we wait for politicians or social agencies to campaign to government and landlords on our behalf?

Many politicians, advocacy groups, and social agencies are appealing to landlords and calling for the provincial government to provide relief for tenants, but so far these calls have led to little action.

  • Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath has asked for many good things: (i) a government rent subsidy of 80% of household’s monthly rent, up to $2,500 per home, for 4 months; (ii) a rent price freeze for 6 months; and (iii) a legal ban on evictions, lockouts, and disconnections. (source)
  • ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) Canada is encouraging people to sign a petition and call their MPs and MPPs to ask that the government: “Enact a temporary rent free period for all renters and a moratorium on all evictions in Canada until the World Health Organization declares the COVID 19 pandemic has ended. In the short term – to get past April 1 and May 1 –  the government needs to create a pot of money to which landlords can apply to when tenants can’t afford their rent.” (source)
  • Tenant advocacy groups like the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario have developed a list of recommendations for federal, provincial, and municipal governments (source).
  • Legal Aid Ontario (source) and local legal clinics (source) are offering legal advice to defend against eviction, but nevertheless encouraging tenants to lock themselves into payment plans with their landlords.

Unfortunately, Andrea Horwath’s words won’t go far at Queen’s Park, where Doug Ford’s Conservatives hold the majority of seats. Petitions, lists of recommendations, letters, phone calls, emails, etc. expressing appeals to politicians and landlords are also too little, too late. Words are not enough. We need action. And we have the power to take action, now.

We are in the middle of a pandemic, a global health crisis that will put many in our communities at risk of illness and death. Due to the related economic crisis, mass layoffs, and the increase in the cost of living, many of us are struggling financially. We are being forced to choose between buying food and paying rent.

We cannot wait for landlords to have a change of heart or for politicians to decide to do the right thing. We can take matters into our own hands without waiting for their direction. By keeping our rent, we take back authority over our lives and our families’ futures.


I’m nervous to keep my rent without knowing how many other tenants are doing the same. Do you know how many Hamilton tenants are participating?

We will likely never know the exact number. We can make some estimates based on census data. We know that 32% of Hamiltonians are renters (approx. 170,000 people). Before the COVID-19 crisis, many people were already spending more on rent than they could afford. 45% of Hamilton tenants spend more than 30% of income on rent. 20% of Hamilton tenants spend more than 50% of income on rent. We estimate ~40% of Hamilton renters currently cannot afford to pay rent. That’s approximately 68,000 people.

We are encouraging people to visit this page to sign the Keep Your Rent pledge to commit to withhold rent. When we have enough pledges, we will create a map of Hamilton that tabulates the number of people participating and shows the scale of participation across the city. The map will be anonymized, showing participation at the neighbourhood level rather than by address. Hopefully this will show strength in numbers and encourage more ‘on the fence’ tenants to participate.


Keeping my rent could be riskier for me than for other people. Why should I participate?

For the most marginalized among us, KeepYourRent is not a choice — it’s a necessity. For many people, we won’t pay rent because we can’t. Either we need to save the money to feed our families or for medications, or we just don’t have it to begin with.

Keeping our rent might be riskier for some people than others. It’s important to acknowledge that. Marginalized people are most at risk when singled out and isolated. KeepYourRent is about acting together, so that those who are most marginalized are not left to deal with this crisis alone.

This makes it especially important for tenants in more secure positions to not just participate but commit to defending one another down the road, if it comes to that. If you think you are in a position to choose, please choose to stand with others who aren’t.


I can afford to pay my bills and rent, because I am still working or I have savings to draw from. Why should I participate?

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 public health crisis will last. Current projections say 18 to 24 months. We need to think ahead and be prepared.

As of March 25, 2020, 44% of Canadian households had experienced lost hours at work or a layoff. This number will increase. Every week, more industries are added to the “non-essential” list. Many more of us will lose our jobs.

If laid off, the most you can get through EI is 55% of your wage, up to a max. of $573/week. Through the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), you get $2,000/month (actually ~$1,800/month with income tax deductions) for up to 4 months. Average rent for a 1-bedroom in Hamilton is now $1,510. That doesn’t leave much money for food, phone, internet, car payments, etc.

It is reasonable and smart to keep your rent in case you need the money in future for food and other essentials.

Many of your neighbours will be in a worse off position, no longer able to cover their bills due to fewer hours at work or layoffs. We need to come together as a community to support those less fortunate. By withholding rent and adding to the number of applications flooding the LTB, you can directly support your poorer neighbours who will be forced to choose between rent and food, would otherwise be at risk of eviction, and be more vulnerable if targeted as a small group.

Everyone must stand together in times of crisis. The more people that participate in KeepYourRent, the more likely it is that the government and landlords will respond by cancelling rent debt and voiding any evictions associated with the COVID-19 crisis. This is a winnable outcome with mass participation.


I have a stable income that has not changed (through OW, ODSP, OAS, CPP, employment pension). Some people say I “should” be able to afford to continue paying the same rent as before the COVID-19 crisis. Why should I participate?

We don’t know how long the COVID-19 public health crisis will last. Current projections say 18 to 24 months. We need to think ahead and be prepared.

There are going to be shortages due to factories shutting down and transportation routes being interrupted. The cost of food and other essentials will go up. Furthermore, many of the services that we rely on to get things freely or cheaply are closing or becoming harder to access (free meal programs, food banks).

People may be able to survive month to month and cover their bills at current rates, but likely won’t soon. It is reasonable and smart to keep your rent in case you need the money in future for these essentials.

Many of your neighbours may be in a worse off position, no longer able to cover their bills due to fewer hours at work or layoffs. We need to come together as a community to support those less fortunate. By withholding rent and adding to the number of applications flooding the LTB, you can directly support your poorer neighbours who will be forced to choose between rent and food, would otherwise be at risk of eviction, and be more vulnerable if targeted as a small group.

Everyone must stand together in times of crisis. The more people that participate in KeepYourRent, the more likely it is that the government and landlords will respond by cancelling rent debt and voiding any evictions associated with the COVID-19 crisis. This is a winnable outcome with mass participation.


I live in a small building. Can I keep my rent?

Tenants in small buildings or single units like basement apartments might feel isolated and less confident in keeping their rent. That’s why we’re creating ways for tenants to communicate online and by phone. Join in and stay in touch! By keeping your rent you make it possible for other tenants to feel more confident in keeping theirs. Ongoing communication will be critical for our ability to respond in cases requiring collective support. Reach out! We can try to connect you with nearby tenants in your neighbourhood or other tenants across the city who have the same landlord. See the How to Research Your Landlord article for tips on how to find other tenants in Hamilton with the same landlord.


I’m on OW or ODSP. Can I keep my rent?

Yes. Just like any other tenant, you are encouraged to keep your rent.

With layoffs and increasing prices for food and household essentials, money is tight for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis, but especially for low-income people who survive month-to-month on social assistance payments. Furthermore, many of the supports that we rely on to get things freely or cheaply are closing or becoming harder to access (free meal programs, food banks, children’s breakfast programs).

Tenants whose shelter allowance is paid directly to the landlord can still keep their rent. Tenants on social assistance can contact their OW or ODSP caseworker to cancel their rent pay-direct. If your caseworker denies your request, contact us for support. Tenants can pressure the local OW or ODSP office to stop denying tenants’ requests to cancel their rent pay-directs.


I rent from a social housing landlord. Can I keep my rent?

Yes. Just like any other tenant, you are encouraged to keep your rent and organize with your neighbours to defend yourselves as a group against landlord reprisal.

With layoffs and increasing prices for food and household essentials, money is tight for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis, but especially for low-income people who live in social housing. Furthermore, many of the supports that we rely on to get things freely or cheaply are closing or becoming harder to access (free meal programs, food banks, children’s breakfast programs).

Several social housing landlords have made public announcements assuring tenants that they will not be evicted during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, City Housing Hamilton has said they “will not proceed with eviction due to outstanding rent balances during the temporary shutdown” (source). Kiwanis Homes has said: “There will be no penalty for late provision or renewal documents or rent payments for April 2020” (source).


A portion of tenants’ rents contributes to the salaries of people who do maintenance, sanitation, and cleaning for our building. Won’t withholding rent affect them?

Wages of building staff comprise a tiny proportion of the landlord’s income. In buildings with live-in staff, it is even tinier as a significant portion of the remuneration is a unit to reside in.

Landlord lobbyists and public relations managers often like to talk about the supposed economic hardship of “mom and pop” landlords, but in truth the vast majority of tenants in Canada rent from corporate real estate investment firms with large profit margins. A recent Vice Canada article notes: “Based on data from Statistics Canada, only a small percent of the 5.9 million tenants across Canada are renting from a homeowner who also lives on the property and has no other property. They represent 4 percent of homeowners.”

Corporate landlords have the money to continue to pay the wages of office staff, cleaners, and maintenance workers. By withholding rent, we are not taking money away from these frontline workers but instead putting a small dent in the annual profits going to the company’s investors, who are already rich.

 

WHAT ABOUT MY LANDLORD?

What about my landlord?

We are focused on supporting tenants, not landlords. But we understand that many tenants have questions about this, especially if their landlord is a “small landlord” owning a few properties.

The government and banks have already announced relief plans for property owners, including the option to defer mortgage payments for up to six months. It is true that this is a payment deferral, not payment forgiveness. Landlord lobby groups are claiming that this only applies to a person’s primary residence, but it is not clear that this is the case. The federal government Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) has said that “landlords with CMHC-insured mortgages who are facing financial difficulties have access to the same tools and relief measures” (source). Canada’s top six banks have said that each mortgage is considered on a case-by-case basis and you are eligible if you can prove that your income is negatively impacted by COVID-19 (source).

Just as tenants are organizing to demand that rent payments be cancelled, we hope that homeowners organize to demand that banks cancel mortgage payments. Both demands have already been won in places like Italy.

Tenants did not cause the COVID-19 crisis or related economic impacts and it is not up to us to come up with solutions for everyone. We need to think about our immediate needs and make reasonable decisions to make sure we have enough money for food, health essentials, and taking care of our families. The average tenant is in a much more precarious economic position than the average homeowner or small landlord.

Banks, investors, corporations, billionaires should shoulder the burden of this economic crisis, not tenants or homeowners. Together we should demand a rent and mortgage strike, rather than a bailout for landlords and banks.

Landlords have access to wealth and resources that will allow them to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic better than most, while tenants are more and more concerned with our daily survival. The government has already announced financial support and mortgage suspensions for businesses and landlords. By keeping our rent we will have more money for groceries, medicine, disinfectant supplies, and other basic necessities. Our landlords will be fine without our rent. We may not be.

 

HOW DO I JOIN ‘KEEP YOUR RENT’?


My rent is paid directly to my landlord from OW or ODSP. How can I cancel direct deposit to keep my rent?

Tenants on social assistance can contact their Ontario Works or ODSP caseworker to cancel their rent pay-direct. Tenants whose rent is paid directly to the landlord can still keep their rent. If your caseworker denies your request, contact us for support. Tenants can pressure the local Ontario Works or ODSP office to stop denying tenants’ requests to cancel their rent pay-directs.


Should I hold on to my rent or can I spend it?

One of the reasons people are participating in Keep Your Rent is because they don’t have rent or will need their rent money for food, security or supplies. It is each person’s decision whether they spend it, save it or how they spend it. No one can guarantee the outcome of this movement. We can’t promise people that they will never have to pay April’s rent. But our aim is to organize together to try and ensure we have access to potentially critical resources for working class people during this crisis. If landlords mount threats of eviction or legal retribution against working class people who are making the reasonable and responsible decision to keep their rent under these circumstances, working class people will have to defend each other and ourselves from those attacks. That is also something we, as working class people need to responsibly prepare for. That means not only keeping your rent but being willing to support everyone else who has.

 

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS

Is it true that there are no more evictions?

On March 19, in response to COVID-19, the Ontario Superior Court suspended all residential evictions “until otherwise ordered by the court”. This means that until otherwise stated, the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) will not issue any new eviction orders and the sheriff will not participate in the forceful removal of tenants from their homes. The LTB has cancelled all in-person hearings until further notice, to be rescheduled for a later in-person date or replaced with telephone or video conference hearings.

With the eviction system at a stand still, landlords cannot bring tenants to the LTB and they cannot enforce evictions against tenants.


When the COVID-19 crisis is over, and the eviction suspension ends, will everyone get evicted? What kind of legal action could my landlord take?

No. Only the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) can order a tenant to move out and only the Sheriff can physically remove someone from their home.

Landlords can apply to the LTB to evict a tenant who has not paid rent, but only after the 14-day notice period in a properly served N4 notice. After the notice period expires, the landlord has 30 days to apply for eviction at the LTB. A hearing at the LTB is usually scheduled in 3-6 weeks, and in light of the current crisis, potentially much longer (months), in advance.

Landlords may issue an N8 eviction notice alleging the tenant frequently paid rent late. Again, the Landlord has to apply to the LTB. The risk of eviction at an N8 LTB hearing is lower than at an N4 hearing for non-payment of rent. At an N8 hearing the LTB could order the tenant to pay rent on time for the next year or be evicted without a hearing.

Landlords also have the option of applying to the LTB to order a tenant to pay the rent owing. In this case there is no eviction, only an order to pay the landlord.

At the LTB hearing the tenant can pay the rent owing and avoid eviction. However, the LTB may require the tenant to pay the landlord’s filing fee of $190. There are some exceptions to this that apply in a small minority of cases. If your landlord has taken you to the LTB before over rent, reach out to us for more information.


What if I can’t afford the $190 filing fee?

Tenants do not automatically become responsible for a landlord’s filing fees. Landlords apply for this and the tribunal then has to approve it. No-one should accept this outcome, for themselves or others. Attempts to force tenants to pay for their landlord’s legal attacks can and should be fought.

During the 2017 MetCap rent strike, Parkdale Organize in Toronto was able to fundraise a defense fund to help cover $190 filing fees against tenants. The force of the rent strikers’ actions defeated MetCap’s attempt to evict them and the money was never used. This is because there were hundreds of tenants involved and MetCap was unable to pursue evictions against everyone at once. Similarly, during the 2018 East Hamilton Rent Strike by Stoney Creek Towers tenants against landlord CLV Group / InterRent REIT, tenants were able to raise over $20,000 from local supporters in a strike fund. If necessary, that money will be made available and it is entirely possible that more money would be fundraised.

People who don’t have an additional $190 are likely also people who won’t be able to make rent at some point during this pandemic. Keeping your rent offers a way to preempt fate and take control of the situation now.


Will not paying rent affect my future housing opportunities? I am worried about applying for an apartment in future with poor references and this on my record.

Credit score: Failure to pay rent has no effect on your credit history or credit rating. A future landlord will not be able to obtain this information in the context of a credit investigation, for example.

Tenant record: It is illegal for landlords in Ontario to create a tenant blacklist or give your information to a third party company that conducts tenant screenings, for example. In theory, a prospective landlord could file a Freedom of Information Act request to the Landlord and Tenant Board to see if any LTB orders had been brought against you, but this is a huge ordeal (money, time) and the information is often not provided when requested. It is extremely unlikely future landlords would go to this effort.

Landlord reference: It is possible that your landlord may not agree to give you a positive reference if you apply for a new apartment in the future. But this is a challenge that can be overcome.

Keep in mind that tens of thousands of tenants across Ontario will not be in a position to pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis. Everyone is in the same boat. In future, if landlords try to penalize tenants who withheld rent during this pandemic, they will have a hard time finding anyone to rent their apartments to.


What if my landlord reports my missed payment to a third party company like “Rent Check” or “Naborly”?

It is a privacy violation and illegal for landlords to report missed payments to third party companies like “Rent Check” or “Naborly.” Landlords are not allowed to track private tenant information with private companies. This doesn’t mean they aren’t using services like that, but if you catch them doing so, it is against the law.


What if an LTB application is made by the landlord? LTB records aren’t available online but if you file for a Freedom of Information Request, they would be made public.

Thousands of people a week are brought to the LTB; this would take someone a lot of time and effort to do when just checking up on a tenant application. The identifying info is also not always available. Who is going to go through the trouble of doing Freedom of Information Act requests for prior LTB proceedings?


Will not paying rent affect my future housing opportunities? I am worried about applying for an apartment in future with poor references and this on my record.

Credit score: Failure to pay rent has no effect on your credit history or credit rating. A future landlord will not be able to obtain this information in the context of a credit investigation, for example.

Tenant record: It is illegal for landlords in Ontario to create a tenant blacklist or give your information to a third party company that conducts tenant screenings, for example. In theory, a prospective landlord could file a Freedom of Information Act request to the Landlord and Tenant Board to see if any LTB orders had been brought against you, but this is a huge ordeal (money, time) and the information is often not provided when requested. It is extremely unlikely future landlords would go to this effort.

Landlord reference: It is possible that your landlord may not agree to give you a positive reference if you apply for a new apartment in the future. But this is a challenge that can be overcome.

Keep in mind that tens of thousands of tenants across Ontario will not be in a position to pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis. Everyone is in the same boat. In future, if landlords try to penalize tenants who withheld rent during this pandemic, they will have a hard time finding anyone to rent their apartments to.

 

WHAT IF MY LANDLORD…?

What might my landlord do?

Legal Action:
Landlords may issue an N8 eviction notice alleging the tenant frequently paid rent late. Again, the Landlord has to apply to the LTB. The risk of eviction at an N8 LTB hearing is lower than at an N4 hearing for non-payment of rent. At an N8 hearing the LTB could order the tenant to pay rent on time for the next year or be evicted without a hearing. Landlords also have the option of applying to the LTB to order a tenant to pay the rent owing. In this case there is no eviction, only an order to pay the landlord.

Undermine organizing:
To undermine tenants collectively keeping our rent, big, corporate landlords will come out with rent deferral or rent relief schemes. These programs will not benefit tenants. Instead, they will put tenants into rent repayment agreements with their landlords. Tenants who make individual deals with landlords weaken the collective strength of keeping our rent. Individual landlords may directly confront tenants who keep their rent. They may try and intimidate and harass tenants. Tenants should document these interactions and reach out for support immediately.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord calls me?

Hang up or do not pick up. Tell them you are only willing to correspond in written format, and only as a collective tenants’ association.

If that is not an option, you can legally record the call without the landlord’s knowledge.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord offers repayment plans to me and others in my tenant committee?

Encourage everyone in the group to refuse to accept or sign any payment plans, and tell the landlord to deal with tenants as a collective through your assigned representative. Landlords often use divide and conquer tactics to break up solidarity, and you can easily combat that by demanding all communication to be done through the representative of your Tenants Association.

Plan a collective response to landlords who pursue collection of rent from tenants who can’t afford it during a global pandemic.

Be sure to document your landlord’s response.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord gives me an N4 notice?

Don’t move out. This notice is a threat, but it is only the first step of the eviction process. Threats of eviction against tenants are unacceptable, especially during a global pandemic. You’re not alone.

Contact your neighbours and Keep Your Rent–Hamilton to plan a collective response against landlords who threaten tenants with eviction. Document your landlord’s response.

People have successfully made landlords withdraw N4’s by organizing with their neighbours and demanding the landlord withdraw N4’s before any rent is paid. This can be done through collective calls/emails to your landlord, public attention etc.

You will see on the N4, it states that if you do not pay the money you owe the landlord within 14 days of the date of the N4 that the landlord can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) for an eviction hearing. Hearings are typically scheduled 4-6 weeks later. At a hearing, the landlord will make their arguments about why they are owed the money and why the tenant should be evicted, and the tenant has an opportunity to make their counter-arguments.

(Note: if your matter proceeds to the point where you receive a Notice of Hearing from the LTB, contact your local community legal clinic immediately: https://www.legalaid.on.ca/legalclinics/. The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic is still open during COVID-19, offering advice over the phone. You can call 905-527-4572 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:30am-3:30pm and Wednesday 8:30am-12pm.)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the LTB is currently not scheduling eviction hearings or issuing eviction orders at this time other than in “exceptional circumstances.” Even if an eviction order is issued, the Ontario Superior Court has temporarily suspended enforcement of those orders. For the time being, tenants cannot be lawfully evicted.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord doesn’t give me an N4 notice?

Some landlords may not issue N4s if tenants agree to rent repayment. Or, landlords may wait to issue N4s until later on, when the LTB hearing ban is lifted. This is a set up. You are under no obligation to agree to repay now. Tenants who agree to rent repayment now may find it harder to obtain a cancellation of rent later.

Contact your neighbours and Keep Your Rent–Hamilton to plan a collective response to landlords who pursue collection of rent from tenants who can’t afford it during a global pandemic. For tenants who feel they may be in a position to pay their rent—keep in mind the fluidity and constantly changing nature of this situation. Money in hand today may be worth a lot more tomorrow.

 


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord sends me harassing or threatening messages?

Threats and harassment are unacceptable. We believe tenants have the right to their home free of any harassment from the landlord. The Residential Tenancies Act provides protection for tenants to live free from harassing or threatening behaviour from their landlord and their landlord’s representatives. That being said, as discussed above, the LTB is not currently scheduling hearings. Therefore, for tenants who want to pursue legal remedies, this is unlikely to take place any time soon, and the results are often far less than what tenants hope for.

Solidarity with your neighbours is important. You may need to defend each other by witnessing your landlord’s actions together. Contact your neighbours and Keep Your Rent Hamilton to plan a rapid, collective response plan. Document your landlord’s behaviour on video or audio.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord shows up at my unit?

Barring some kind of emergency, there is no reason for a landlord to show up to your unit. By showing up at your unit the landlord is putting you at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19. If your landlord insists on showing up at your unit, contact your neighbours and Keep Your Rent Hamilton to plan a rapid response. Record any interactions where it’s possible to do so safely. If your landlord calls the police, do not be afraid or intimidated. Police have no right to intervene in landlord–tenant matters (a civil matter), unless there is otherwise criminal conduct taking place.

Contact your neighbours and Keep Your Rent Hamilton to plan a rapid, collective response. Document your landlord’s behaviour.


I kept my rent. What should I do if my landlord illegally locks me out of my unit by changing the locks?

The only way a landlord can legally remove you from your home is with an order from the Landlord and Tenant Board and the only person with the power to enforce that order is a Sheriff. Only you and the sheriff have the legal authority to remove you or your property from your home. Not the police, not special constables, not private security, and certainly not your landlord himself. Any attempt to remove you or your property or change the locks without an order from the Board is illegal.

But it happens. Tenants have come home to changed locks and their property on the curb. While this is illegal it is not unheard of. It almost only happens when a “small landlord” is involved.

So, what do you do if this happens to you or someone you know?

We understand that what we are about to say will be angering and even somewhat frightening, but please read through to the end. Your legal options aren’t great, but we’ll lay them out for you anyways.

You can contact your local Community Legal Clinic for free legal advice: https://www.legalaid.on.ca/legal-clinics/. The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic is still open during COVID-19, offering advice over the phone. You can call 905-527-4572 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:30am-3:30pm and Wednesday 8:30am-12pm.

They may advise you to call the police and ask for their assistance getting back in. It is common for police to decline this request. You can petition the LTB for an order to the landlord to allow you access to your home, but it is common for the LTB to only issue those orders after having conducted a hearing. And the LTB is mostly closed right now. Tenants have a right to their homes; they have a right to safety from abuse and illegal acts from landlords. But the courts and police rarely act quickly if at all to protect those rights. So, it may be left up to you and those you organize with to protect and defend those rights.

If you believe you may be at risk of illegal lockout, there are a few things you may consider doing:

  1. Inform those that live around you that this may happen. Share with them a description of your landlord and give them your contact. If they see your landlord or anyone else doing anything suspicious around your home ask them to intervene and contact you.
  2. Carry all important documentation with you at all times while outside the home. This includes identification, passport, credit and debit cards, immigration or legal documents etc.
  3. Carry proof of residence. Ideally this would be your lease agreement but can also be registered mail with your name and address on it.
  4. Leave yourself a way to re-enter your home or have a plan if locks are changed while you are out. A window or some other option may be necessary for you to be able to re-enter your home.

No matter which action you take if a landlord chooses to act illegally, the most important thing is to protect yourself. There is little better protection than the support of those you organize with. It is critical that we know all the possible outcomes and are prepared to respond accordingly.