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. White v. Upper Thames River Conservation Authority

In White v. Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered a land lease case, appealed from the LBT and through the Divisional Court. The original issue was the application of the RTA to the lots given that the lease called for seasonal periods of non-occupancy, a provision that had been waived extensively in practice. At the CA it was agreed that the RTA applied, and the only issue was the legality of the non-occupancy period provisions (the court held against their legality). An earlier (LTB) issue of substantial enjoyment was held to be unnecessary for the tenant's to succeed:
The right to reasonable enjoyment

[28] Section 22 of the Act provides as follows:
A landlord shall not at any time during a tenant’s occupancy of a rental unit and before the day on which an order evicting the tenant is executed substantially interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental unit or the residential complex in which it is located for all usual purposes by a tenant or members of his or her household.
[29] The Act does not define either the concept of reasonable enjoyment or substantial interference with it. These are vague terms that must be fleshed out by Board decisions in particular contexts, and a large body of Board case law has developed in this regard. In this case, the Board stated that the restriction of tenants’ access to rental units would be a “substantial interference with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental units”. The Divisional Court disagreed, stating as follows:
A reading of the ordinary sense of s. 22 of the Act does not lead to a determination that Upper Thames substantially interfered with the reasonable enjoyment of the Tenants’ rental units when these Tenants voluntarily agreed to the provision in the lease. To be clear, s. 22 of the Act cannot be read as to indicate that any limitation to access to a rental unit during certain periods of time, agreed upon by both landlord and tenant, equates to a substantial interference by the landlord with the reasonable enjoyment of the rental units. To find otherwise would be to unnecessarily limit the ability of landlords and tenants to enter into flexible arrangements regarding the leasing of premises.
[30] As I have explained, it was unnecessary for the Board to rely on s. 22. For its part, the Divisional Court erred by assuming occupancy limitations to be proper by virtue of the absence of a specific prohibition in the Act and tenants’ agreement to include them in their leases. This led the court to conclude that s. 22 was at the heart of the appeal, and it had to be interpreted in accordance with the parties’ freedom of contract.

[31] The outcome in this case does not depend on the tenants’ right of reasonable enjoyment. The occupancy limitation in the leases is void because it is inconsistent with the Act as a whole and the nature of the tenancies it establishes and protects.


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