An easy fix to rental woes

Fixing the Yukon’s landlord and tenant law is painfully simple. All the tools are in place. The Yukon just needs the wherewithal to use them.

Fixing the Yukon’s landlord and tenant law is painfully simple. All the tools are in place.

The Yukon just needs the wherewithal to use them.

Like most Canadian jurisdictions, the Yukon has an arbitration body that can hear complaints from tenants about, for instance, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions in their apartments.

After the arbitration body reaches a decision, rental officers have powers to order landlords to clean up an apartment or perform needed work to comply with health, safety and maintenance regulations.

But unlike similar bodies in Ontario and British Columbia, the Yukon arbitration board requires written requests to intervene from both the tenant and the landlord.

Unless a tenant can convince the landlord to face the authorities and, in some cases, pay for expensive repairs, the only recourse a tenant living in an unsafe or unsanitary apartment has is to go to court.

The reverse is also true.

Landlords with problem tenants can’t have an order issued to the renters unless they agree to arbitration.

But landlords hold one advantage in the relationship: they can evict people.

Consumer affairs oversees landlord and tenant disputes in the Yukon.

Fiona Charbonneau, its manager, told The News last week her office receives an average of 75 complaints a month from both landlords and tenants.

But few, if any, result in arbitration.

“We have not had an arbitration in many, many years,” said Charbonneau.

Charbonneau’s office is granted powers under the Landlord and Tenant Act to enforce the act and also sections of the Public Health and Safety Act that it defers to.

But the need for joint intervention requests renders it ineffectual.

Ontario’s rental housing tribunal can issue orders to landlords and tenants.

It has been around for almost 10 years.

In a dispute, either side can pay $45 to have a complaint considered and ruled upon.

The fee discourages abuse.

And fees are waived if the complainant is successful in the hearing, or if they are complaining about a problem with harassment.

A similar process exists in BC.

Either a landlord or a tenant can apply for a dispute-resolution hearing, wherein officers can order landlords to conduct repairs or tenants to pay outstanding rent.

But in the Yukon, the rules render the arbitration body useless.

It can only offer tenants mitigation measures, such as providing education about their rights and informing landlords of their obligations, rather than enforcement or concrete solutions.

Changing one simple rule — allowing one side to initiate arbitration — would make the system better for landlords and tenants.

Though it won’t fix everything, that’s a great place to start. (TQ)

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