KAWARTHA LAKES-When 88-year-old Mary Webster responded to a call for help from the City Of Kawartha Lakes she says she had no idea she would be left to her own devices if something went wrong.
Webster has been living with an unruly and sometimes unpaying tenant in her basement for more than two years. The situation has deteriorated according to Webster and she is now afraid for her safety.
“I want her out, I want my home back,” Webster told Kawartha 411 News.
The tenant was placed in Webster’s apartment after the City of Kawartha Lakes put out a call for local residents to “help the homeless” in May 2020.
MPP Laurie Scott’s office says there’s nothing she can do to help remove the tenant.
“Adjudicative tribunals, such as the Landlord Tenant Board, resolve disputes independently of government, and as such, any questions about cases should be directed to the respective tribunal. In order to preserve this independence, MPP Scott is not permitted to comment on tribunal processes, cases, or decisions.” her office stated in an email to Kawartha 411 News.
The Landlord Tenant Board admits delays are a problem but also says their hands are tied.
“The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) recognizes current processing times are longer than we wish them to be, and we understand the impact that delays have on those who access our services.” said Hanna Ali, Media Spokesperson for Tribunals Ontario. “Depending on the application type, including L1 applications, new and adjourned matters are currently being scheduled, on average, within seven to eight months. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, a tenant may remain in the unit until a final order has been issued terminating a tenancy.”
The City of Kawartha Lakes says it is a landlord-tenant issue and they cannot get involved.
“It is unfortunate that the situation has turned out the way it has.” said Michelle Corley, Housing Manager at City of Kawartha Lakes. “At the beginning of the tenancy, it appeared a good fit to house an individual facing homelessness, and each of the landlords taking part in the Rapid Re-Housing Program were given the opportunity to get to know their tenant before committing. As much as we wish we could assist landlords in these types of situations, legally they must go through the proper avenues. Challenges with a tenancy can only be legally addressed through the Landlord and Tenant Board.”
The Rapid Re-housing Program began in May 2020 to “help end homelessness during COVID-19”.
“During the pandemic, the most vulnerable are at an even higher risk and the City is looking to landlords to help house homeless community members. There is a high demand for bachelor or one-bedroom units,” said a press release from the City.
The City said that as of April 15, 2020 there were close to 100 people in the City of Kawartha Lakes and County of Haliburton who were actively homeless.
The City agreed to provide landlord support contact through the Affordable Housing Program Coordinator, who “will regularly check-in to see how the tenancy is doing, and who can help find resources to maintain the tenancy if problems arise”.
“The City and County’s goal is securing stable, permanent housing and to meet the needs of our landlord partners who provide the accommodations. Supports are provided to both landlord and tenant so everyone can get ahead. Whether you have a vacant unit or have one coming available soon, together we can help end homelessness during this pandemic.” said the press release in 2020.
The tenant moved into Webster’s basement in July and she says the problems started almost immediately.
“They told me she was without a home through no fault of her own. They didn’t tell me she was mentally ill. At first, it was good but then it was horrible.” Webster told Kawartha 411 News. “A short time after she moved in here she brought a common law husband in and they (the city) said we can’t do anything about that she’s allowed to have someone.” (He moved out in December 2022)
That was just the beginning of a “nightmare” for Webster.
She says she has not been able to use the laundry room in the basement even though it’s stated in the lease that she is to be allowed access. Kawartha 411 has confirmed the tenant has piled junk in the basement doorway preventing her from entering. Sometimes, according to Webster, it has been taped shut. Webster now has to go to the local laundromat to do her laundry.
When you open the door to the basement a blast of overwhelming heat hits you. Webster claims the tenant leaves the oven and stove on all day and night, even when she’s not home.
“I’m afraid she is going to burn the house down. At first, she would put out the garbage every week but that soon stopped and I couldn’t figure out what she was doing with the garbage. Then I had to have a new furnace installed and when I got into the basement, there was junk everywhere, and all the garbage and recycling were in my fruit cellar. As far as I know, it’s still there.” Webster explains. “Around the 28th of December, she dragged a discarded real Christmas tree down the stairs into the apartment and it’s been there ever since.”
Click here for the full story:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2023/01/23/88-year-old-lindsay-woman-fears-for-her-safety-after-answering-citys-call-for-rentals-for-the-homeless/
With the help of her niece, Webster filed a request to terminate the tenancy with the Landlord and Tenant Board but after months of delays and one hearing the tenant paid $4300 in back rent owing and the Board allowed her to stay.
Tribunal Watch Ontario is urging the government to confront a backlog of over 32,800 cases in the Landlord and Tenant Board as of December 2022, calling it a crisis.
“The crisis is worst for small landlords who have lost funds and resources because of an inability to secure an eviction order from the tribunal. Likewise, tenants will continue to suffer from poor living conditions if disputes are ignored.” said the Law Times News.
In 2021, Tribunal Watch Ontario found through a survey of tribunal users that the confidence in the timeliness and fairness of the tribunal processes were “overwhelmingly negative.”
In response to the issues, the Ontario Government announced it was providing an additional $1.4 million in funding to “improve access to justice”.
Officials say the funds will allow the board to hire over 35 additional operational staff to enhance scheduling and client experience, issue decisions and orders faster and help tackle the high number of cases before the board.
The funding builds on the $4.5 million investment over three years announced earlier this year, which will be used to recruit more adjudicators and further help the Landlord and Tenant Board to address longstanding backlog issues according to the Ontario government.
“We’re investing millions of dollars to increase the number of adjudicators and staff at the Landlord and Tenant Board, so the board can work to alleviate its caseload, which was impacted by COVID-related delays,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “Residents and rental housing providers will get faster results, shorter wait times and a better overall experience when they need to engage the board.”
As a result of our original article a lawyer from Toronto has offered to take on Webster’s case and has already been to her home in Lindsay and been in contact with the City of Kawartha Lakes.
The tenant remains in the basement.