Eviction Prevention Amid COVID-19

On July 22nd 2020, housing professionals from across Toronto gathered in a series of Community Conversations to collectively discuss the impact of COVID-19 on eviction prevention work, and to share skills and strategies for preventing, planning for, and support clients through evictions once the emergency eviction ban is lifted in Toronto. 

Together, housing professionals shared ideas on how to engage with landlords, how to prevent evictions, how to help clients prepare for evictions, and how to prepare for potentially high eviction notices from clients. This document provides some compiles resources to support eviction prevention planning and preparation, and the notes from the conversation breakout rooms.  

For comments, feedback, or questions, please contact Savhanna Wilson, savhanna@eyetfrp.ca.  

Eviction Prevention Resources 

Conversations produced notes in the following areas: 

  • How are you currently engaging with landlords and clients to prevent evictions? 
  • How are you currently helping clients prepare for evictions? 
  • How are you preparing for potentially high eviction notices from clients once the emergency ban is lifted? 

Preventing Eviction: 

  • Undertake proactive Eviction Risk Assessments with all clients, and continue to check in frequently. Create a template that could include gathering: 
    • Date of rent payment; last date of payment; amount owing; if they have enough money to pay rent; if they need financial supports or access to Rent Bank  
    • Relationship between client and their landlord (do they get along? Is the landlord responsive? How do they communicate, and how frequently?)  
    • Budget check-in, including income/outgoing expenses, how funds or financial supports are received (direct deposit? Direct to landlord? Cheque? Etc)  
  • Show up and build relationships directly with landlords: some landlords who have been pushing tenants out have shifted away from evictions when advocates step in 
  • Educate landlords: many small landlords don’t have full information about landlord/tenant rights, cost of evictions, etc.  
    • Landlords do not require a license or education to be able to rent out their place; encourage them to take Rent Smart courses, potentially get a Rent Smart certified staff member at your organization 
    • Focus on cost: landlords evicting will not only lose the income from arrears but also cost additional money – appeal to that  
  • Check with client about direct payment from ODSP or OW; support client in making that decision and communicate that to landlords 
  • Try to be proactive and mediating between them and landlord from the beginning to come up with payment plan that they are both comfortable with  
    • Meet with client one-on-one to empower them to see if they’re able to have the conversation with the landlord, and build their communication skills  
    • Role play with them about what they could say to their landlord  
    • Step in to mediate if they are too uncomfortable, or reach out to mediation services like St. Stephen’s  
    • Addressing emotion and knowing when to walk away and come back to a conversation 
  • For those struggling with rental payment, work on budgeting and looking at how to compensate the amount they need to repay – what areas in their budget can they pull from to make ends meet and repay  
  • Education – people feel disempowered and not familiar with legalities and rights and responsibilities, etc; housing professionals can refer to services, legal clinics, etc to help clients become educated and informed  
  • If non-payment has occurred, engage with Eviction prevention programs 
    • Call city 311 
    • Mediation – St. Stephen’s!  
  • Community legal clinics have been great and supportive; have helped review Ontario standard leases; are a great partnership to build into the work 
    • Support clients to prepare any paperwork or information that they might need ahead of a legal consult 
  • Get consent from your client to talk to the landlord, and provide landlord with direct contact information; collaborate with other staff or management and landlord to come up with the solution (open communication) 
  • Rent bank referrals 
  • Mediate and negotiate payment plans 
  • Some housed OW/ODSP recipients have collected one or more CERB cheques (more than they were entitled to), and must pay back the money before December 31st 2020 or they risk fraudulent activity charges. Concerns and uncertainty around if they can lose benefits (ie child tax benefits or GST, or OW/ODSP) if they can’t pay it back, which would result in losing housing  
  • Providing landlords with PPE has generated positive responses and been deemed helpful to them. They feel more secure, and safety is important to them. 
  • Rent Bank – a lot of folks going into arrears don’t know about Rent Bank, so a referral to them will help  
    • Rent bank has made amendments for covid19 
  • Discuss with clients a strategy to maintain housing (ex: pay rent first and refer to other supports for food access, etc.) 

Preparing for Evictions:  

  • Contacting landlords in the catchment area about the Eviction Prevention Program (EPIC) and asking if they have tenants with a lot of arrears in the moments to help planning for arrears before the LTB opens – assessing documentations; trying to coordinate services between EPIC, Housing Stabilization Funds, and putting together payment arrangement plans and getting all of it in writing so that when the LTB opens there’s no motivation to evict because there is already a payment plan  
    • Education for landlords to salvage housing before LTB opens  
    • City of Toronto Team for the GTA; another team that works out of Albion in the west end, and St Stephens for downtown.  
    • City of Toronto Management is working with OW and ODSP offices and LTB folks to get direct referrals from them to make sure that tenants can make realistic repayment plans  
  • Assess risk through Eviction Risk Assessment, determine who will need re-housing and set them up looking  
  • Contact Toronto Community housing lawyers, where applicable   
  • Seeking Rent Bank, HSF, or legal clinic support, letting clients know there is an eviction ban at the moment but it is about to be lifted 
    • Create information boards on the ban lift, seek all forms of income support and tackle cases one by one  
  • Some Landlords are asking for rent plus repayment. Ensure all evictions presented to clients are legally binding, as laid out by the LTB; connect with legal aid clinic where uncertain 
    • Some clients have been presented with N4 forms that are ammended by landlords to include “if July rent is not paid along with August rent, tenant agrees to move out.”  
    • Review all eviction notices with client to ensure legality  

Preparing for heavy workloads: 

  • Take vacations right now to anticipate high volumes of workload  
  • Document all issues – create templates so that each client can be swiftly assessed and documented  
  • Start the assessments now, and develop a triage system to address highest-to-lowest risk/need  
  • Building proactive relationships with landlords before the ban is lifted, or as the ban is being lifted  
  • Case load anticipate double or triple – Adding additional staff (landlord and housing support person), temporary staff/contracts, shifting responsibilities and expectations to prepare for client support increases, and anticipate other services clients may need with a plan in place for swift referrals  
    • Extra services required may include legal services, financial services to prepare for evictions; moving support; furniture; housing help; etc 
  • Develop standard template for crisis response strategies to enact in cases of imminent/swift evictions 
  • The eviction ban has allowed focus on other aspects of case management; preparing to shift to focus more on housing. 
  • Housing Professionals need to continue to connect and collaborate, perhaps through an inter-agency communication forum. EYET’s Community Forum can be a space for that. 
  • Clients need support creating a budget that includes CERB and rent arrears repayments; create some templates for that to ensure the budget creation can be swift.  

Concerns around Bill 184: for further consideration  

  • Who will be drafting the repayment plans? Will it be landlords solely? Will verbal repayment plans be accepted? How can we ensure only written agreements with defined terms are standard? How can we advocate that the repayment plans should be standardized (I.e. the TCHC where the percentage of arrears for repayment not higher than 30% of income.) Alternative review of repayment plans could be the Duty Council at the LTB. — Legal clinics will be inundated. 
  • Must ensure clients check in with supports before agreeing to a repayment plan. If a landlord wants to make a repayment plan agreement with them, and wants them to sign anything, advise them to tell the landlord they are interested in signing, but need time with the document to review. Support and connect them to legal services, review plan to ensure that it is realistic.  Fear landlord will draft repayment plans that are not fair for client’s ability to pay. Educating clients on what their rights are and making sure they seek support before signing anything. 
  • Housing professionals are uncertain of the ramifications of Bill 184, and need to take the time to educate ourselves on the bill itself to get the full knowledge base to support clients. 

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