Social Housing (Ontario) Legal Guide
(23 November 2021)
Ch.12 - Enforcement
- Eligibility Review Officers (EROs)
- Family Support Workers (FSWs)
These RGI enforcement provisions [HSA 55,57-58] apply not only to HSA Part V 'designated housing projects' [which make up the bulk of this Social Housing (Ontario) Legal Guide], but generally to municipally-run (ie. by 'service managers') RGI-assisted social housing of which Part V housing is only one form [HSA 39(2)].
"No member of a household shall knowingly obtain or receive RGI assistance for which the household is not eligible" [HSA 55(1)].
"A person shall not knowingly aid or abet a member of a household to obtain or receive RGI assistance for which the household is not eligible" [HSA 55(2)].
A person who contravenes the above provisions is guilty of an offence and, on conviction, is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months or to both [HSA 55(3)].
2. Eligibility Review Officers (EROs)
The position of EROs (Eligibility Review Officers) is replicated from welfare (OWA) (and ODSP) law [EROs (ODSP)] [HSA 57(1)]. In smaller municipalities it is likely that the same staff-person's hold dual ERO appointments for both welfare and for social housing (RGI) positions.
Anyone involved with any hint of an ERO investigation may want to review my entire welfare (OWA) chapter on "Fraud and Prosecutions" [in the OWA Guide (linked above) it's Ch.12].
An ERO may investigate the past or present eligibility of a household to receive RGI assistance and may investigate any member of a household under investigation [HSA 57(2)]. No person shall obstruct or knowingly give false information to an ERO engaged in such an investigation [HSA 57(7)], and a person who contravenes this provision "is guilty of an offence and, on conviction, is liable to a fine of not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months or to both" [HSA 57(8)].
An ERO may apply for and act under a search warrant [HSA 57(4,5)].
EROs have powers to do the following when engaged in an investigation [Genl Reg 66; HSA 57(3)]:
An ERO is deemed to be engaged in law enforcement for the purposes of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act [HSA 57(6)]. This, generally, exempts EROs from the operation of these information statutes.
- the ERO may undertake inquiries into matters that may be relevant to the investigation;
- the ERO may enter a place if,
. the place is open to the public,
. the officer enters with consent, or
. the officer enters under the authority of a search warrant.
3. Family Support Workers (FSWs)
FSWs (family support workers) also exist in welfare and ODSP law but I have found them to be less obvious and less well - dangerous, than EROs. They are focussed primarily on assisting household members on obtaining available family law support (child and spousal), but can be involved with realizing any financial support (such as personal injury claims) [HSA 58(1,2)].
An FSW "may collect and disclose personal information to assist in legal proceedings for financial support and in the enforcement of agreements, orders and judgments relating to financial support" [HSA 58(3)].
FSWs have the following powers "in assisting a member of a household in taking action to pursue financial support" [Genl Reg 67(1)]:
For these purposes, FSWs may "undertake investigations and inquiries", and "collect, use and disclose personal information" [Genl Reg 67(1)].
- Help or Undertake Legal Financial Proceedings
They may "assist a member of a household with legal proceedings relating to financial support or undertake such legal proceedings on behalf of the member".
However, nothing in this section authorizes a family support worker to do anything that the worker would be prohibited from doing under the Law Society Act [Genl Reg 67(2)]. That means that they can't start proceedings or act for the household member as their lawyer or paralegal.
- Settlements and Enforcement
They may assist a member of a household in completing an agreement providing for financial support of a member of the household, including a domestic contract [under FLA 51], and in filing any such agreement in the office of the Director of the Family Responsibility Office for enforcement.