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Immigrants and the landlord-tenant dispute mechanisms in Canada Identifying and addressing barriers to access Pablo Mendez PhD Candidate Department of.

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Presentation on theme: "Immigrants and the landlord-tenant dispute mechanisms in Canada Identifying and addressing barriers to access Pablo Mendez PhD Candidate Department of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Immigrants and the landlord-tenant dispute mechanisms in Canada Identifying and addressing barriers to access Pablo Mendez PhD Candidate Department of Geography University of British Columbia February 25, 2009

2 Outline of this presentation 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations

3 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Why this matters A. The private rental market is a necessary mid- to long-term stop for most newcomers -> Only about 28% of immigrants do not live in owner-occupied housing -> But: many immigrants rent for at least 10 years before attaining ownership. In 2005, 42% of those withless than 10 years in Canada did not own their housing Source: Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID)

4 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations B. A stable housing situation extends beyond......housing characteristics and need (adequacy, suitability, and affordability)...geographical and market considerations (e.g., segregation by tenure, vacancy rates)...the speed of transition to home ownership.

5 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations => We need to pay more attention to the relationship between immigrant tenants and their landlords In 2005, 1,176,384 immigrants age 16 to 80 (or 27.8% of all immigrants in that age range) lived in housing not owned by a member of the household. (Source: SLID 2005)

6 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations C. It's not just about housing, but about larger issues like citizenship and justice - Understanding Canada's legal structures, and knowing one's legal rights and responsibilities promotes better citizenship - The question of who is able to access (and benefit from) the legal system -- and who is not -- is one that clearly matters

7 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Landlord-tenant disputes Can result from: - undesirable behaviours by either party - misunderstandings about the legal responsibilities of either party - improper use of the premises by either party - landlord failure to maintain or repair premises - landlord failure to return tenant's security deposit - tenant failure to pay rent on time

8 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Landlord-tenant disputes Not always resolved amicably - Private informal negotiation, or sometimes unilateral action by one party (decision to move out, or decision to evict) - Sometimes, disputes are dealt through mechanisms set by law

9 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Legal dispute resolution systems In Canada, residential tenancies are regulated by provincial Acts. There are many differences between the tenant- landlord dispute resolution mechanisms stipulated in each province's legislation.

10 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Legal dispute resolution systems Quebec: Régie du Logement Ontario: Landlord and Tenant Board Alberta: Provincial Civil Courts; Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (in some parts of the province only) British Columbia: Residential Tenancy Branch

11 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations A few differences... Quebec and Ontario have quasi-judicial tribunal systems, while British Columbia has a system of arbitrators (government employees, not tribunal members). Unlike Ontario, B.C. does not have a separate unit to enforce decisions. In Alberta, residential tenancy cases can be heard either in civil court or through its special service

12 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Similarities between systems In all major immigrant receiving provinces, the law lays out: - who is protected under the Act - what are the rights and obligations of both parties - what are the legal mechanisms to resolve tenancy related disputes

13 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations - To obtain access, all systems require that an application be filed by one of the parties - All systems involve some sort of hearing - All of the systems' decisions are binding, with varying levels of appeal possible

14 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Quebec: In 2006, 1,267,940 households did not own their home In , 76,141 cases were introduced at the Régie du Logement (equivalent to 6% of all non-owner households) According to SLID 2005, 13.5% of non- owning persons were immigrants

15 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Ontario: In 2006, 1,312,290 households did not own their home Between 1998 and 2006, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal (the predecessor of the Landlord and Tenant Board) received approximately 536,000 applications from landlords alone According to SLID 2005, 26.9% of non-owning persons were immigrants

16 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Alberta: In 2006, approximately 330,275 households did not own their home Between 2006 and 2008, the new Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution System handled 6,800 cases, in addition to the cases handled through provincial civil Courts According to SLID 2005, 13.4% of non- owning persons were immigrants

17 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations British Columbia: In 2006, approximately 494,000 households did not own their home In , the Residential Tenancy Branch conducted 26,200 hearings According to SLID 2005, 19.8% of non- owning persons were immigrants

18 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations A) Knowing there is a law, and knowing its contents B) Knowing how to access the dispute resolution system C) Being able/willing to access the system D) Understanding (and coping with) a legal decision FOUR AREAS WHERE BARRIERS MAY ARISE

19 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Note that many of the barriers affect both immigrants and the Canada-born

20 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Best practices Working with community partners Helping service providers share information Developing plain language versions of the law Translating information sheets Mediation and conciliation services Consultations around legal reform

21 1. Context 2. Dispute resolution systems 3. Identifying barriers to access 4. Best practices 5. Recommendations Recommendations 1) Interpreters, legal aid, accompaniment 2) Legal protections for those outside the Acts 4) In-person hearings for newcomers who need it 5) Faster process and more consistent decisions 6) Simplify the enforcement of outcomes 7) Programs to support newcomers who obtain unfavourable decisions


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