Did you get bad advice from the Toronto Tenant Hotline?

You may be able to sue the City of Toronto!

The Toronto Tenant Hotline of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, has a reputation for giving out exceptionally poor information to those desperate enough to call in. It was based upon the previous bad hotline, see Toronto Tenant Hotline defunded.

That is because the people who give the advice on the hotline are lay people who are neither lawyers nor trained paralegals, yet they are paid $175,000 a year just for the hotline by the City of Toronto to provide legal advice to the city's tenants. That is in addition to the over $200,000 a year the city provides for their "outreach and organizing" efforts ($267,000 for 2007).

If you can get through their "suggestions" that the best way to fight your landlord is to join them and send in your membership fees, you will often get bad advice, the most common of which from them is to go to Small Claims Court for your tenant issue that should be handled by the Landlord Tenant Board or discrimination case to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Their excuse is that they say the Landlord Tenant Board works for the landlords, but if you need real advice on the law, give the Board a call at 416-645-8080 or outside of Toronto at 1-888-332-3234.

Similarly, in cases of discrimination, whether it be because you are a single mother or a recent immigrant they advise callers to avoid both the Board and the Ontario Human Rights Commission at 416-326-9511 or outside of Toronto 1-800-387-9080. The FMTA will even claim to be so helpful as to mail you out copies of the filing forms for Small Claims Court along with their membership information to encourage you to sign up all your neighbors in their group. But they never advise you that there is also an organization that specializes in fighting legal cases against discrimination, the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation 416-944-0087 or outside of Toronto 1-800-263-1139.

The city funds the Federation of Metro Tenants because the group in return supports city policies even those bad for tenants. The city promotes this group in annual tax decrease mailings from the city's finance and taxation department, (but does not do mailings for the much greater number of tenants getting tax increases,) although the FMTA doesn't know much about this issue. The city also endorses this group in all of its Enforcement Of Property Standards brochures from Municipal Licensing and Stadards due to political pressure. The city of Toronto website promotes this unscrupulous group on over 50 of its pages and tells councillors to get their offices to do the same.

Even the Mayor's office recommends all renters deal exclusively with the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations.

In 2006, the loft tenants of 2154 Dundas Street West on the northwest corner at Ritchie Ave., contacted the Mayor because of mass eviction notices of all of the tenants.

Michael Booth the special projects manager in the Mayor's office not only told the tenants to join the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, he contacted the group directly to organize a meeting by the FMTA for the tenants. He also told the tenants not to talk to the media, that the FMTA should be doing so on their behalf.

Dan McIntyre held a meeting the next week with the tenants, where he falsely informed them they were all covered under the Tenant Protection Act, as he falsely claimed their building was zoned residential and had verified this with the city, and then proceeded to collect membership fees from most of the tenants.

2154 Dundas Street West was in fact zoned as commercial property by the city. The tenants were never protected under residential tenancy laws as they had all signed commercial leases in a building zoned as commercial.

The tenants all ended up evicted, the FMTA and the city kept it out of the media, and Dan McIntyre walked away from that only meeting with the tenants with several hundred dollars in memberships.

Since the city funds this unqualified group to provide legal advice and actively promotes this, even through the mayor's office, the City appear's to be jointly responsible with the Federation for any losses you may have experienced due to you being evicted or other negative outcomes that resulted from incorrect legal advice the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations may have provided to you.

You need to document when you received any advice from the FMTA, what it was, what the negative outcome was, (such as being evicted,) and what your financial costs were resulting from their bad advice, (eg. loss of property, the cost of moving, time lost at work, etc). Also, if you found out about the FMTA, through the city, whether your councillor's office, the Mayor, or the city website, you should remember how they referred you to this group.

Two things you might try to get your losses covered, is if your losses are $10,000 or less, you can file the details of your claims against the FMTA, and if the city referred you to the FMTA then also the City of Toronto as a co-defendent, at Small Claims Court. And secondly, inform the media about your lawsuit.

This group actively prevents tenants from getting proper legal advice by dissuading us from contacting the Landlord and Tenant Board and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, but also by undermining other possible sources of real legal information. A perfect example of this was how the FMTA stacked the board of directors of Metro Tenants Legal Services, and when in 1995 there was a dispute with a couple of legal service employees, the FMTA put their own person, Henk Mulder, as Chair of the legal service and used it to dissolve the clinic. Henk Mulder admitted to as much in his deputation in the public record of the provincial Hansard, see Federation of Metro Tenants support for the Harris government.

When the province created another tenant specific legal clinic a few years ago called the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, the province hired ex-FMTA executive director Leslie Robinson, to decide who was to be their new board, and stacked it with supporters of the FMTA, including then FMTA executive member Ken Hale, and FMTA employee Marcia Barry. This FMTA stacked board decided that this new legal clinic would never handle calls or cases from tenants calling them, so as not to compete with the FMTA. Ken Hale has now managed to get himself hired as the Legal Director of ACTO!

The city has received a number of complaints about the FMTA but some politicians and city housing staff are rumoured to have a policy of destroying records of compaints about them. To see a couple of the known complaints to the city about this group visit this document from the High Park Tenants Association and this one from a Parkdale tenants association. Even with these two known complaints, the only action by the city buried was the bury the issues in these letters and never to discuss them.

Go back to the Federation of Metro Tenants Associations Story