Julie Campagna says she feels “devastated” and “stressed” because she doesn’t know where she will live after she was evicted from her home.
She said she was invited to a virtual eviction hearing in October, but due to a poor WiFi signal, the connection was cut and it was believed she dropped the call and lost her case.
“I’ve been stressed since then, like I was living moment to moment and losing all my things here and there. So it was very, very stressful. A lot,” said Campagna, adding that the whole process was so quick.
According to Lisa Gretzky, MPP of Windsor West, and Anna Colombo, attorney with Legal Assistance of Windsor, she is one of many Windsorites unjustly evicted during the pandemic. They have noticed an increase in evictions across the city.
Both find it worrying and call on the government to impose an eviction moratorium.
The hearings have been postponed online
Gretzky and Colombo said the eviction negotiations are now taking place virtually, adding that this is an obstacle for many people.
“We find that mass evictions are taking place across the province because people have barriers to entry when it comes to holding these hearings virtually,” said Gretzky. “So we find that they are not notified. [It] goes to your spam folder. You don’t see it in your email. By the time they find out, the hearing has already taken place and a decision has been made against them or they will find out at the last minute. “
Anna Colombo, an attorney at Legal Assistance of Windsor, says low-income people, single parents, people unable to work due to COVID-19, and people with language barriers are the most vulnerable to evictions. (Tahmina Aziz / CBC)
She also said that people are having difficulty unmuting and unable to voice their presence at the meeting.
Colombo said those on low incomes, single parents, those unable to work due to COVID-19 and those with language barriers are most likely to be hit by evictions.
“These are stressful situations at the best of times and now you are asking people who may be struggling with technology that they may be unfamiliar with, who may not have access to a phone, and you are asking them to testify and check by phone and do so by video on a computer, “Colombo said.
“So there are some things that people just don’t have access to. I think the board expects them to have access to them when they just don’t.”
Lisa Gretzky, MPP at Windsor West, said she had urged the government to ban evictions during the pandemic. (Tahmina Aziz / CBC)
Colombo also said that eviction rates “are likely close to prepandemic levels” and “they are happening very quickly”. She fears that people who become homeless may not be able to protect themselves from the virus.
“Customers feel extremely stressed. They tell us the safest place they are right now is home. So if you don’t have a home, the risk increases because your risk of COVID increases now. When you are in situations Forcing yourself to either be in a shelter or when you have to live with family members or friends you can’t distance yourself from your own home as much as possible, “she said.
Proponents want an eviction ban during COVID-19
“We shouldn’t see more people on the street, especially in winter,” said Gretzky, who called on the government to ban evictions.
Colombo agrees: “I think we need to stop the evictions for the benefit of public health.” She said she was concerned that the number of homeless people in the city would increase.
Lawyers are also calling for a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic. A nationwide eviction ban was lifted in late August.
Since then, the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has scheduled thousands of eviction negotiations between November and January, said Kenneth Hale, legal director of the Advocacy Center for Tenants in Ontario, a center that provides legal assistance to tenants and low-income resources to those who pass stand for eviction.
Hale said that after the eviction ban was lifted, the board began speeding up evictions and holding “dozens and dozen” hearings per day, all of which were videoconferencing, adding that it does not support those who do not have proper assistance became access to technology – a common problem for low-income renters.
“We’ve heard of people having to hold payphone hearings, sitting in their cars in the parking lot wondering if their minutes would run out before they get a chance to share their side of the story,” said Hale.
In addition to a moratorium, Colombo said it would like to see a limited return to face-to-face hearings and provide accommodation for those who need it.
“I think I think additional questions need to be asked when renters don’t show up about why they’re not there,” she said.
Campagna, scared, said she tried to stay calm but was having trouble finding accommodation.
“I just hope no one else ends up in the same situation,” said Campagna.
“If I had met someone face-to-face, if that was an option – to be in a courtroom with someone to fight this case, I would have been golden and everything would have been fine, but because I have poor Wi-Fi Connection because unfortunately I have a low income, that’s what they all base it on. “