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After 10 years of living in her Junction Triangle home, Jennifer Allan received an eviction notice or rather, an eviction email. Devastated, she turned to her local community Facebook group for help.

“Me, my husband and 5-year-old son have been evicted,” Allan wrote in a closed group on Tuesday last week. “My son goes to Perth [Early Learning Centre] and uprooting him plus finding new daycare is daunting and I really want to stay in the neighbourhood. Does anyone have a rental unit coming up or leads?”

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Allan has been renting in Toronto since she moved to the city in 2004. Her family currently occupies the main floor and basement unit of a house in the west end.

“The plan was to rent long-term,” she told Toronto Storeys in an email interview. “Home ownership is out my range. Without six-figure jobs from two people and/or family help, real estate is impossible.”

READ: Ontario Government Considers Streamlining Eviction Regulation

Allan said her landlord didn’t give any indication that she had plans to move into the property until recently. “Up to that, it seemed good to go for the long-term,” she said.

This type of eviction is known as an N12, where a landlord wants to end a tenancy because they require it for personal use. Legally, landlords have every right to do this if either they, a family member, or a purchaser are moving in.

READ: 4 Ways To Invest In Real Estate Without Becoming A Landlord

In September 2017, however, new eviction rules were introduced to protect tenants in these cases. On top of giving at least 60 days’ notice, landlords serving an N12 eviction are required to give either one month’s rent as compensation or offer their tenants another rental unit.

Landlords must also intend to stay in the unit for a minimum of one year. If they re-rent, demolish or convert the unit within that time frame, they could be fined up to $25,000.

So, Does An Email Count As Written Notice For An Eviction?

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Of course, being evicted by your landlord isn’t as simple as receiving a notice via email. There’s a full process, which is why some people on Facebook questioned the lawfulness of Allan’s eviction.

Step one is giving tenants written notice and an email doesn’t count, says Ontario landlord and tenant lawyer Caryma Sa’d.

That’s because when a landlord completes a Certificate of Service which is required when submitting an eviction notice they have to indicate who they gave the notice to and how they delivered it.

READ: Toronto Rent Continues To Top The Tight Canadian Rental Market

“Email isn’t one of the options on the form,” Sa’d noted. “So unless the tenant has already agreed to receive notices by email, the preferred [way] would be to use one of the prescribed methods: handing it to them in person, leaving it in their mailbox, sliding it under the door. Email as kind of a secondary basis.”

Allan hadn’t received the proper forms from her landlord when she initially took to Facebook about her eviction. But later that day, her landlord came by to drop off the legal forms, she said. 

What Tenants Can Do After Receiving An N12 Eviction

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Just because Allan and her family are being evicted, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything they can do about it. Sa’d suggests tenants try talking to their landlords about the situation first, as it “may be a more straightforward and less frustrating process” than going to court.

“Any time any tenant receives any sort of notice, it’s not automatic,” the lawyer explained. “There are some exceptions to that, but 90 per cent of the time you receive the notice, and then you wait for what’s called Notice of Hearing.”

READ: Are You Covered? What You Need To Know About Renters’ Insurance

Usually, a hearing will be scheduled if the landlord and tenants do not come to an agreement, and the landlord files an application with the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. At the hearing, tenants can either try to disprove the landlord’s claim that they or a family member are moving into the unit or argue why they should have longer than 60 days to move out.

“It may be valuable to have a hearing, if only for the purpose of extending, if there’s no evidence where the Board can reject,” Sa’d said. “It does happen that the Board rejects an N12, so if a tenant does have reason to believe that it’s not in good faith, it’s not a hopeless application.”

Finally, both landlords and tenants should ensure they have all the correct forms filled out for their specific eviction as required by The Residential Tenancies Act.

READ: What You Need To Know About Renting Out Your Condo In Toronto

“Any missed step could mean that the process has to start over again,” Sa’d warned, “so I would encourage landlords and tenants to be very vigilant in examining the forms and seeing what’s there.”

Moving Out And Onward

Receiving an unexpected eviction can be a disheartening experience, especially for young families.

“I felt like my life suddenly was in turmoil,” Allan said, recalling her initial reaction to receiving the notice. “I no longer knew where I’d live or where my son would go to school. I was in shock and dismay.”

Allan’s biggest concern now is making sure her family's upcoming move is a smooth adjustment for her five-year-old boy. “We’ve never been evicted. We were great tenants,” she said. “[We’ll] do our best to make this transition good for our son. We [will have to] figure out how to sign him up for a new school and juggle the child care after school issue.”

READ: 4 Toronto Real Estate Market Predictions For 2019

N12 evictions are on the rise in Toronto, according to Landlord and Tenant Board data from 2017. That year, applications for “personal use” evictions shot up 23 per cent from 2016, and 50 per cent from 2015, the Globe and Mail reported.

This trend was influenced by the market’s high rent, and has been used as a loophole for landlords trying to increase rent more than allowed by law. That’s why it’s so important for tenants to know their rights.

For more information about evictions, visit the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board website.

Have a real estate story you want to share? We want to hear from you! Whether it’s about your unique living situation, the ways you’re organizing your personal finances, or the dream home you recently bought (or are planning to buy), reach out to info@storeys.com.