When You Can Evict a Tenant in Ontario
It’s something that no landlord wants to do, but occasionally it is necessary to evict a tenant.
Evictions are governed under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. The Landlord and Tenant Board has put together a summary document entitled How a Landlord Can End a Tenancy which is a simple explainer for situations in which you can evict a tenant, and how each must be dealt with under the Act.
It is important to note that at any stage, you cannot change the locks on the property to lock out the tenant. This can only be done either after a Sheriff has evicted the tenant or if you are absolutely certain that the tenant has abandoned the property. If you change the locks, you are subject to hefty fines up to $25,000 if you are an individual and up to $100,000 if the property is owned by a corporation.
If you have a cause to file for eviction, you should do so immediately rather than waiting for the situation to work itself out. A filing for eviction can always be cancelled by you if the situation is resolved to your satisfaction, and depending on your reason to evict, the process could take months.
Here are the reasons that you can evict a tenant “for cause” under the Residential Tenancies Act.
- Non-Payment and Persistent Late Payment
Filing for non-payment of rent is very straightforward, and the most common reason for eviction. You can also file for eviction if the tenant is persistently late with rent – however you may want to save this for egregious cases, since there is no hard guideline and each matter is dealt with by the Landlord and Tenant Board on a case-by-case basis. If, for example, your tenant has been late with rent by a few days for only a couple of months out of the year, it may not be worth the trouble to apply for eviction. If they are late every month, it may be a different story but an outcome in your favour is still not guaranteed.
- Damage and Disturbance
Significant damage to the unit above regular wear and tear and significant disturbance to other tenants are both “for cause” reasons for eviction. Be prepared to document damages – this is where it is helpful to have pictures of the unit timestamped just prior to your tenant’s move-in day. If you aren’t doing this yet for tenant move-ins, you should start doing so as the tenant can claim that the damage was there when they moved in otherwise, which turns into a problematic argument at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Disturbance is another potentially risky eviction reason. If you have received complaints from other tenants, you’ll need to present them as evidence, and it can’t be something minor like loud stomping on floors – it would have to be consistent loud disturbance, such as frequent wild parties.
- Illegal Activity on the Property
Any activity that is considered illegal, such as selling drugs in the unit, is grounds for eviction. The Act does not specify that the tenant must have been charged with an illegal activity, but it would provide a much better case with the Landlord and Tenant Board if they have been. If you suspect that a tenant is committing an illegal act on your property, your first step for your own safety and that of other tenants (if applicable) should be to call the police to investigate and to ask for a copy of the report to back up your eviction.
- Sale, Renovation, or Changed Use of the Property
If you intend to sell the property, and it has three or less units, you can evict a tenant with 60-days notice. It must also be in line with the termination of the rental period, so if a tenant has a 1-year lease, you must serve them with an N-12 form 60 days prior to the end of that lease if you intend to sell the property.
You can also evict a tenant if you intend to change the use of the property – for example if you want to convert it into commercial offices – or perform major repairs or renovations which require the unit to be empty.
Most of the reasons that you would want to evict a tenant can be ruled out by effective tenant screening. If rental properties are your side business, and you work full-time, you may not have enough time or skill to property vet potential tenants. Consider hiring a Toronto property management company like Highgate to do this for you to avoid potential headaches.