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New property owner ended a job and tenancy. What can be done?

THE QUESTION

My brother-in-law and sister live on property that they rent from his employer. His employer recently sold the business and the new owners are making changes. Dave has worked for his employer for 25 years. Because the employment is seasonal with a golf club, he gets laid off every year. He has always been expected back, and returns. From the new owners, he recently received an one-month notice to end tenancy for cause, and one-month notice to end tenancy for end of employment. Not only did he lose his job, he has lost his home. What, if anything, can be done?

THE FIRST ANSWER

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Natalie C. MacDonald

Partner, Rudner MacDonald LLP, Toronto

Much can be done to assist your brother-in-law. In Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) requires his employer to terminate him by providing notice of termination or pay in lieu (eight weeks, given his length of service); and if applicable, severance pay (25 weeks for him).

In addition, in the absence of a valid termination clause in an employment contract, he must be provided with reasonable notice of the termination of his employment ("severance package"), which would include payment of his salary, benefits and any other entitlements he had prior to the termination, which may include his home and the tenancy arrangement.

The notice period, which includes the ESA amounts, is to provide Dave income while he seeks comparable employment, and is typically based on his years of service, age, character of position and availability of similar employment.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006, a landlord can only end a tenancy on notice for specified reasons, termination of employment being one. A notice "for cause" could be not paying the rent in full, causing damage or illegal activity. The length of notice required by a landlord to terminate a tenancy depends on the type of tenancy (weekly/monthly/yearly), and if for cause, the type of cause upon which the landlord relies. In any case, he and his wife have remedies available to them.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Eileen Dooley

Vice-president, VF Career Management, Calgary

This is a classic case of being too dependent on your employer. A client once told me he used his employment address for all his mail, including bank statements, mortgage information, etc. Because it was not his property, a simple mail redirect from Canada Post was not possible.

Unfortunately, the employer holds all the cards in this case, and the only recourse you have is to move and find alternate employment. Luckily, we are entering 'golf season' so there may be more opportunities now than in the fall/winter season. Use your network and start looking.

Seeing this as a new start, be cautious on how much you depend on the employer beyond a simple paycheque. Not just living arrangements, but use of a cellular phone – bring your own that the employer will support, and that you leave with, or have a separate one for personal use – and any other resources the employer gives to you. If the employer insists that you live on the property as part of employment, ensure that the arrangement has an exit clause in the event of job or residency change. And have a backup plan ready to go.

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