Those pesky kids! How much does a neighbour have to put up with in relation to noisy children in another tenants unit? Is the sound of a baby's cry grounds for eviction? Is the distinctive thump of a toddler's walk unbearable? What about fighting siblings, shouts and screams? What about all of those noises that children make, at inopportune times? Are these sounds that neighbours must learn to tolerate?
The fact is that under the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act a tenant can be evicted for the actions and noises of children as the children are occupants and hence the tenants are responsible for the noises that they make. That being said, are children held to the same noise making (or silence) standard as other adult tenants or occupants? The answer to this question is both yes, and no.
The Landlord and Tenant Board has held that the "ordinary" noise caused by the normal activities of children is not a basis for eviction. The problem with this statement, of course, is that "ordinary" and "normal" are subjective and what might be normal and ordinary to one person is utterly outrageous to another. So, some examples of "ordinary" and "normal" may be in order. The Board has held that a tenant's children using a swing set for chin-ups, riding a dirt bike, and using some obscenities was not grounds for termination. Nor was it held to be substantial interference for teenage children to be hanging out in a lobby and spending time. In an even more extreme example, a tenant's adult son who harassed and intimidated other tenants did not result in the eviction of the tenant so long as the behaviour was rectified and apologies given.
Over the years I have had some extreme examples of misconduct by children that did not result in the eviction of the tenants. In one case, a pre-teen got in a fight with another child in the park. The parent of the child who was hurt at the park came to the apartment to speak with the child's parents who happened to not be home. The child answered the door and in doing so pointed and threatened the person with a lighter that looked like a handgun. The police responded rather forcefully and the weapon was seized. The family was not evicted as the family was a good family, the parents responded with all the discipline that is deemed appropriate today, they apologized to the person who was threatened and their history within the building was shown to be unremarkable. The Board maintained the tenancy on the condition that no illegal act occur for the following year.
Another example is that of a child who gained access to the roof of a tall apartment building and at the instigation of a friend joined him in throwing rocks from the roof (16 stories up). One rock hit a person who was slightly injured. Again, in this case the tenancy was maintained as the parent disciplined the child appropriately and was doing all that she good to control the behaviour. The tenancy was again preserved conditionally.
The examples above should not lead to the conclusion that it is impossible to evict a tenant for the actions of their children. In fact, tenants are regularly evicted for the actions of their children and the context of those actions is quite important. In a case from several years ago an adjudicator in hearing a case involving the actions of children stated as follows:
Taken in isolation, each singular incident or classes of complaints testified to by the landlord and her witnesses might not suffice. But taken cumulatively, they unfortunatley establish that the tenant's children are by their loud and abusive language, by their fights and rowdiness, by their littering, by their damage to property are [sic] beyond what the landlord and other tenants are by law compelled to endure before the remedy of eviction is granted."
So when it comes to children and their behaviour, I think it is fair to say that context is everything. One off incidents in an otherwise unremarkable tenancy, where parents are clearly disciplining their children and doing what they can, are regarded sympathetically by the Landlord and Tenant Board and tenancies will be preserved where the conduct can be controlled. The opposite also seems to be the case, that where children are wild and parents are wilfully blind to the aggravation caused by the behaviour, then the tenancy will indeed be terminated.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
What if Children are the Problem?! The noises of children.
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