In our first blog post on this Eviction Prevention Blog Series, we discussed the primary level of eviction prevention initiatives, with the importance of landlord and tenant education through programs such as RentSmart. This program teaches landlords and tenants how to appropriately respond to issues when they arise, which ultimately increases housing stability and works to prevent homelessness.
Secondary forms of Eviction Prevention
While primary eviction prevention is targeted towards individuals who have never experienced evictions, secondary eviction prevention is geared towards those who have had experiences of evictions or are currently at risk of being evicted. The goal here is to prevent them from experiencing future instances of evictions. Mediation is one form of secondary eviction prevention.
Did you know that within mediation almost 90% of all cases are likely to be settled before going to trial? Did you know that within those settled cases, 69% of cases are likely to be permanently solved?
According to Catherine Feldman Axford of the St. Stephen’s Community House Conflict Resolution and Training, the goal of mediation is to transform the relationship between the parties involved. St. Stephen’s has successfully been using their model of conflict resolution and training for over 30 years. Catherine describes mediation as “a situation where the fundamental relationship is somehow broken, and one or both parties need assistance with repairing that relationship and trusting one another again.” Many landlord-tenant relationships are tested with “consistent or intermittent late rent payments; issues of repairs and maintenance; or in cases of subsidized rent-continuation, of qualifying for the subsidy and therefore affording the rent,” according to Catherine. Other cases requiring mediation are conflicts between roommates where one party owns the lease or each has a lease with the landlord, and conflicts between neighbours in cases of noise, smoke, pets, and landscaping.
When a landlord or tenant appeals to the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario, parties may be referred by a court commissioner to assist them in formal mediation. However, this process rarely allows for each party to speak to one another and they are only given up to one hour to resolve the issue in-house. Catherine suggests that it is more convenient and cost-effective if mediation takes place in a location near each party’s location and through a community mediation organization that is free-of-charge.
When problems arise between landlords and tenants, either parties within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) can call the landlord-tenant hotline operated by the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association (FMTA). The hotline is free-of-charge and can refer callers to appropriate community or city agencies, legal clinics, and other necessary resources to best assist each individual case.
What to do with an Eviction Notice?
Once a tenant receives an eviction notice from their landlord, many do not know what to do with it. Most tenants assume they must move out of the property as soon as possible, but that is not the case. Community resources such as drop-in centres and legal aid clinics can explain what the notice means and what tenants should do about it. In many cases, a mediator is needed to negotiate with landlords and tenants to resolve issues, allowing the tenant to remain in the home.
The Advocacy Center at the Nelson Committee on Homelessness in British Columbia offers free-of-charge tenant legal aid which includes providing legal information, advocacy, workshops and presentations on legal issues concerning welfare, and family law. Tenant legal aid is a free service provided to tenants to ensure that landlords are not using ‘back door strategies.’ It also works to hold landlords accountable when they do use such strategies.
Be sure to check out our third blog post of this 3-part series to learn about tertiary eviction prevention!
Author: Elizabeth Coulas