Can you evict a tenant with a criminal history?

by Jennifer Paterson09 Apr 2015
Screening tenants before they move into your property is a no-brainer for investors – but what options are available if you learn a tenant has a criminal past after they have signed the lease and moved in?

“You can’t discriminate against tenants for having a criminal history,” said Freedom Malhotra, the founder of Condo Planet. “Using someone's past against them would be a discriminatory practice.”

Landlords in Kelowna, B.C. are in the process of fighting to re-possess their property after inadvertently renting it out to a tenant with a shady past. The landlords rented the property two years ago to a man named Brian Kuhn, but have since learned that Kuhn was convicted in the Cayman Islands in 2003 for raising duping investors out of $3 million.

The landlords say the tenant won’t leave the property, despite the City of Kelowna cutting off the water more than two weeks ago because Kuhn wasn’t paying the utility bill.

He has also been late with the rent, which could potentially be grounds for an eviction, according to Kathy Berner, owner of Regency Management & Real Estate.

“The landlord would not have any recourse to kick out a tenant with a shady past or even a previous criminal record if the tenant continued to pay the rent on time and did not break the terms of the lease agreement in any way,” she said.

“If the tenant does not pay the rent on time or breaks other terms of the lease, then the landlord can evict them the same way they would evict anyone else, but this is not related to the prior criminal behaviour.” 

According to Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board, there are no grounds to evict a tenant due to their criminal history, even if they lied about their past on the rental agreement. But the LTB has no jurisdiction over tenant screening, so if the landlords had investigated their tenant’s background beforehand, they would have been able to reject his application.

“This power dynamic switches the moment a lease agreement is signed and you hand over the keys,” explained Malhotra.

“Once the tenants move in, you have to play according to the LTB’s rules and it can take several months to evict a tenant. These mistakes can be very costly to the landlord.”

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