Community Lawyers, BASICS, and OCAP to Set Up Free Legal Clinic to Help Tenants Force TCHC Repairs
On Sunday, December 9, Lawrence Heights residents attended an event held by Basics Community Newsletter at the Lawrence Heights Community Centre. One of the main topics discussed at the event was the lack of maintenance in TCHC units and the ways in which TCHC residents can use grass-roots organizing as a way to challenge the illegal, substandard conditions of social housing.
One of the guest lawyers at the event, Sarah Shartal, spoke to the current lawsuit that her firm has filed against TCHC on behalf of several thousand tenants. The suit is seeking to remedy all TCHC tenants who have waited more than two weeks for repairs with a payment of $1000, and also to force TCHC to carry out the backlog of repairs which is estimated at $300 million.
However, Shartal argued, the lawsuit is going to take three to five years to complete, and TCHC residents shouldn’t have to suffer in the meantime in their sub-standard, dilapidated units. As an alternative in the short term, Shartal told residents about other means that could be individually applied to force TCHC to get repairs done immediately. There are two forms available at the Landlord and Tenant Board that tenants can fill out to challenge substandard living conditions.
The T2 form, called the “Application About Tenant Rights”, applies to tenants facing situations where “the landlord…interfered with your reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit”, which can apply to any tenant suffering from poor maintenance, and in cases where “the landlord…withheld or interfered with vital services”, such as “hot or cold water, and the provision of heat from September 1st to June 15.”
The T6 Form, “Tenant Application About Maintenance”, determines whether the “landlord failed to repair or maintain the rental unit or complex or failed to comply with health, safety, housing or maintenance standards.” Both the T2 and T6 processes have their own provisions for forcing the landlord to recompensate the tenant or carry out repairs.
Unfortunately, Shartal noted, the T6 form requires a $45 deposit (which is returned if your case is successful), and also direct photographic evidence of the maintenance issue. Shartal asserted that if evidence is submitted to the Housing Tribunal proving the validity of the maintenance issue, and if the tenant wins the case, TCHC is forced to carry out repairs within two weeks.
However, the T2 and the T6 forms are very tricky to fill out and many peoples’ applications are denied for very minor errors. To ensure residents aren’t manipulated and abused by the system any further in filling out these forms, Basics Community Newsletter, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Roach, Schwartz, and Associates law firm are teaming up to hold a free Legal Clinic to help residents fill them out (see ad below). If you are a tenant who needs someone to come out to your unit and take pictures of maintenance problems, OCAP has agreed do so. In addition to submitting these pictures as evidence to the Housing Tribunal, OCAP will later be using the best (i.e. worst) of these images to do a photo exhibit at City Hall to show the representatives of the rich what working people’s living conditions are really like. To set up an appointment with OCAP, call 416-925-6939 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The struggle for better housing and a strong, united community is now underway. TCHC is talking about demolishing our communities with “revitalization” because social housing is in such disrepair. But it’s TCHC’s fault that housing is so bad. Residents must struggle to force TCHC to carry out repairs now – it’s a just fight for their legal right! Come out to February 16 to unite with your community and stand up for what is rightfully yours: Decent social housing for all working people now!