Saturday, 26 January 2013

Police, Self-help & the Sheriff--Evicting the tenant

This week I had two similar phone calls each involving a the process by which a tenant is removed from the property after they have 1) agreed to move and 2) after they have been ordered to move.  These landlords were seeking to confirm that they could just change the locks and remove the tenants from the unit themselves.  One landlord had "friends" who would help in the eviction while the other mentioned getting the police involved if necessary.

There is a real misconception out there that once a tenant has given notice to leave that a landlord is empowered by that notice to carry out the eviction themselves.  The fact is, that unless the tenant vacates voluntarily, any agreement or notice from a tenant that they are terminating the tenancy can not be enforced unless the landlord applies to the Landlord and Tenant Board and obtains an eviction order.  Even with the eviction Order in hand, the landlord can only enforce the eviction through the Court Enforcement Office (i.e. the Sheriff's office).  No self help, no "big friends", no changing locks, no police enforcement, is available to remove a tenant from a rental unit.  Such self help remedies are indeed illegal notwithstanding the existence of a valid Order or agreement to terminate.

A landlord who enforces an Agreement or Eviction Order with a self help remedy risks being sued by the tenant for an illegal eviction, the associated damages, as well as charges under the Residential Tenancies Act prosecuted in Provincial Offences Court.

Eviction is serious business and the province has made it quite clear that only the Sheriff (Court Enforcement Office) is empowered to remove a tenant from a rental unit.

Michael K. E. Thiele
Ottawa Ontario

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