Member support question: Special priority applicants
Question: I have a tenant who came in as a special priority applicant. She has recently moved a man in with her and the neighbours have complained about sounds of fighting coming from the unit. Can I terminate the tenant’s RGI for moving her abuser in? How do I get him to leave?
Answer: No, you cannot terminate a tenant’s RGI for having this person as a guest. Special priority is a designation that only applies when a tenant is on the waiting list. Once they have moved in, you must treat that tenant as you would any other tenant. There is no such thing as a tenant with “special priority status.”
There are many factors that impact whether an abused tenant can make a permanent break from an abuser. As a landlord, there is support you can offer to the tenant without penalizing them during what may be a difficult time.
The first step is to speak with the tenant in person. Remind her of your guest policy. Let the tenant know that there have been complaints about sounds of fighting from the unit. Let her know what the consequences can be for moving someone in without permission (e.g. changes to RGI amounts and eligibility) and offer some strategies. You can also provide the tenant with information about community supports for domestic violence.
Follow up your meeting with a letter and a copy of the guest policy. The letter can address the policy violations and the noise complaints. As it may be seen in the unit by the abuser, you may choose not to include any discussion about the abuse in the letter. You can let the tenant pick the letter up from the office if she does not want it to be delivered.
If the tenant would like the man to stay, you can follow your usual process for allowing someone to apply to be an occupant. Noise complaints from neighbours may be a valid reason to deny him occupancy. Ensure that the neighbours have put their complaints in writing.
If the man is granted occupancy, your service manager may allow you to leave him on the lease as a permitted occupant rather than a leaseholder. This will protect your original tenant’s rights in case the situation changes and she would like him to move out.
If the man is denied occupancy, and still fails to leave, keep in mind when enforcing your rules that the tenant may have difficulty asking him to leave, even when her subsidy is at risk.
If the tenant would like him to leave, either at the beginning of the process or if his application to move into the unit has failed and she is at risk of losing her RGI, there are options to assist the tenant. The tenant can request that their locks be changed and that the abuser be issued a no-trespass order. They can also apply to the waiting list again for a transfer.
As a landlord, you are responsible for following your rules and maintaining the reasonable enjoyment of the surrounding tenants’ units. You are also responsible for helping this tenant to maintain her housing.