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http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014 ... _says.html
Identities of bad tenants should be made public, housing critic says
MPP calls for a registry of bad tenants and landlords after hearing how 'professional tenant' repeatedly exploited the system,
The identities of tenants in Ontario who habitually lie, cheat and exploit the current rental system to stay in properties without paying should be available to the public, says the Progressive Conservative housing critic.
“People who are professional tenants who are continually abusing the system should, in fact, be held accountable for doing that,” said MPP Ernie Hardeman (Oxford), who called on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to evaluate whether a registry of bad tenants and bad landlords should be created.
“We have to be careful that we don’t penalize all tenants for the actions of a few by making things more public than they should be,” he said. “At the same time there must be a way that once you have a record that record becomes public.”
Hardeman’s recommendation followed a Star investigation into how Adam Buttigieg and other tenants have exploited rules meant to protect renters at the provincially funded Landlord and Tenant Board. However, provincial privacy rules prevent prospective landlords from looking up his record.
Buttigieg told the Star he has appeared before the board five times since 2008, each time for writing cheques that bounced, and admitted he used loopholes he identified in the board process to stall eviction. His file, he said, should have a “big red flag.” This week he was convicted in criminal court after admitting to forging cheques and credit reports and writing bad cheques to two landlords.
Critic Hardeman also said it is the Ministry’s role to monitor the application of the Residential Tenancies Act, the law outlining the responsibilities of landlords and tenants and administered by the board, to make sure it can’t be abused.
Housing Minister Ted McMeekin told the Star in an email that he is open to suggestions on how to improve the rules, but said he thinks the current legislation does a good job of balancing the interests of landlords and tenants.
He also said it is “always concerning to read about people who take advantage of others.” In his email, the minister listed tools landlords can use to make sure tenants are financially stable, including credit checks, credit references and obtaining references.
Where there is a dispute, McMeekin said, the board gives both tenants and landlords the opportunity of a fair hearing.
Critics of the current rules say they allow tenants like Buttigieg to delay eviction at the expense of landlords.
On Monday, Buttigieg pleaded guilty to 10 of a total of 66 criminal charges, after admitting he wrote 15 cheques he knew would bounce to two landlords, altered Equifax credit reports and forged cheques using the equipment and logo of his former employer. The rest of the charges were withdrawn.
Buttigieg also left a string of women in financial ruin. Two of his former girlfriends told the Star that if they’d had any way of knowing his history they wouldn’t have moved in with him — and that they want tenants like him to come with a warning.
He did plead guilty to defrauding one of those former girlfriends in 2012, but last month was charged with violating his probation because he failed to pay her $9,900 in court ordered restitution.
He still faces 81 charges for alleged financial crimes against a third woman, a former fiancée, committed between September 2012 and November 2013. Those charges were laid in May.
Buttigieg has also been convicted in provincial offences court for providing false and misleading information to the landlord and tenant board. He wrote the board large cheques that he knew would bounce, for funds to be held in trust pending the outcome of a hearing.
MPPCindy Forster (Welland), housing critic for the New Democratic Party, agreed that the current system could be reviewed and, like Hardeman, stressed that any changes should mean better protection for both landlords and tenants.
“Perhaps we need to be having a look at the legislation and the process to make sure people can’t continue for a number of years to bilk the system,” she said.
Hardeman suggested the tenant board could keep a list of tenants and landlords who appeared multiple times in a short period, or who are obviously abusing the system, to gauge the size of the problem.
Hardeman also targeted one portion of the act that was changed during the last revision and allows tenants who miss a hearing the automatic right to appear again.
“It is almost like an invitation to professional tenants,” he said.
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