UPDATED: Toronto court challenge over province's tenant bill not likely to succeed, expert says

TORYCOUNCIL

Toronto city councillors voted 22-2 on Wednesday, in favour of challenging the province's Bill 184, but a prominent municipal lawyer says the challenge has very little chance of success.

John Mascarin, a partner at Aird & Berlis, says, "the city doesn't normally get involved in landlord and tenant matters unless it's the landlord. So here, it looks to me like it's a purely political power play."

He suspects that the city solicitor has already advised council that the challenge likely won't succeed.

The Ford government's bill, dubbed the Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, allows landlords to propose rent repayment plans to tenants who are behind on payments.

Advocates argue the law could make it easier for landlords to evict tenants without a hearing at the Landlord Tenant Board, and that it could lead vulnerable tenants to sign shady repayment plans.

The cost of the city's court challenge is a little harder to pin down. Mascarin expects they will use their own in-house lawyers.

"The city will say 'it's not really costing us anything,' and yet it may be costing them the very valuable time of three or four internal lawyers," he explains.

Mayor John Tory has been under pressure to ban evictions in Toronto, including by a group who has protested outside his condo twice in the last month.

He voted in favour of the court challenge but noted it will be an, "uphill struggle."

The mayor has voiced concerns about the bill noting that tenants should not be put out of their homes without a hearing but he has said the city doesn't have the power to ban evictions.

It's believed that more than 6,000 tenants in Ontario could face eviction over unpaid rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are pending cases before the Landlord Tenant Board.

The province put evictions on hold a few months ago but that hold will be lifted at the end of July, when the stage of emergency ends.