A new lease on renting in Ontario The Ontario government and MSU are taking steps to help tenants understand their rights

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When he was in his third year at McMaster, Brad Tyler was living in the basement of a house in the McMaster community. In 2016, cockroaches began to infest the place.

“The landlord was told several times that the bug problem was escalating and he didn’t consider the severity of the situation nor seem to act urgently,” said Tyler.

It was not until the spring of 2017 when Tyler decided to cancel on his rent cheque until the landlord addressed the cockroach problem.

“I brought to his attention that the raid was a huge health hazard to the home and tenants and the landlord was still reluctant to properly resolve the issue,” said Tyler, who ended up moving out early.

In 2015, fourth-year McMaster student Mara* rented a place from a landlord who, unbeknownst to her and her roommates, was being chased by the fire department and the city for failing to bring his building up to code since October 2014.

“The landlord has been keeping secret all sorts of information pertaining to our living in the house,” said Mara*. “He has been showing up at the house without any notice as well as allowing his hired contractors and electricians come into our home with no notice,” she said.

On Feb. 7, the Ontario government introduced a new standard lease, which uses simple language to help tenants understand their rights. The update will be implemented for private residential leases signed on or after April 30.

In spite of these issues, Mara* will live in this place until the end of April.

In recent years, more and more stories have popped up of landlords taking advantage of McMaster students. However, this may change with the Ontario government’s new standard lease and other efforts being made to increase landlord accountability.

On Feb. 7, the Ontario government introduced a new standard lease, which uses simple language to help tenants understand their rights. The update will be implemented for private residential leases signed on or after April 30.

At McMaster, steps are also being taken to make students like Tyler and Mara* less vulnerable to being taken advantage of by landlords in the community.

In their year-plans, Chukky Ibe, president of the McMaster Students Union, and Ryan Deshpande, vice president (Education), sought to build a landlord wiki aimed at increasing transparency about landlords in Hamilton.

The project will provide students with an online platform to evaluate their landlord and living situation.

Although the details are still in the works, according to Stephanie Bertolo, MSU associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), the landlord wiki system will likely allow students to post reviews anonymously.

“There is a possibility that students may not want to publish a review since the landlord could figure out it was them,” said Bertolo. “However, since the reviews are anonymous, this should prevent this issue.”

“We will likely build a low-cost, temporary version of the system to get [landlord wiki] running and gain traction around it, and then have it fully launched for next year.”

 

Ryan Deshpande
MSU vice president (Education)

The landlord wiki was originally slated to become available in February, but has since been pushed back.

“We are currently sitting with the questions and want to run them by a lawyer because there are legal implications to starting a program like this,” said Deshpande. “We will likely build a low-cost, temporary version of the system to get it running and gain traction around it, and then have it fully launched for next year,” he said.

Nevertheless, other groups on campus have been working to help students like Tyler and Mara*.

On Feb. 28, the Pro Bono Law Ontario McMaster team will be holding a “Stop, Drop and Law” speaker series event in room 108 of Burke Science Building.

“We have a couple of local lawyers coming in, and they’ll talk about student’s right as tenants and other in’s and out’s of property law regarding student housing,” said Janna Getty, a PBLO McMaster executive.

With these efforts, students should be able to advocate for their tenant rights.

*named changed to protect identity

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Author: Cassidy Bereskin

Cassidy is a first year Social Science student hoping to major in Political Science. She loves bubble tea, coffee, Hamilton (the musical AND our city) and reading through Twitter threads.