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Finding a Solution to an Urgent Safety Matter

What Happened

Stella left an abusive relationship and was staying in a shelter while waiting for new housing. She contacted our office after asking Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) to be released from her current lease agreement, which she shared with her former partner. Her name needed to be removed from her former lease in order to be eligible for new housing. She had been told that she could only do so by signing an N15 form (a “Tenant’s Notice to End my Tenancy Because of Fear of Sexual or Domestic Violence and Abuse” form), which would take 28 days to process. In the meantime, Stella worried she would lose the chance to accept new housing and would face homelessness as a result.

What We Did

We contacted TCHC and stressed that this was not an issue that could wait a month to be resolved. We also contacted the Housing Secretariat to ask whether they could create a policy that would effectively waive the 28-day notice requirement for tenants fleeing sexual or domestic violence and abuse.

The Result

TCHC agreed to back-date the N15 form, allowing Stella to find and accept a new housing offer. Furthermore, the Housing Secretariat agreed to waive the 28-day notice period in its policy, and to provide additional guidance on this issue in the City’s Rent Geared-to-Income Administration Manual, which is used by social housing providers like TCHC.

Why this Matters

People deserve to be treated fairly and equitably, with service that meets their needs. Although TCHC was following its policies, doing so risked further endangering someone’s housing — and their life. Sometimes, fairness requires that a policy be adapted to meet the needs of the individual that it concerns. In this case, an urgent safety matter was resolved by being flexible with the application of TCHC’s policies. It also led to systemic improvements, by adapting an existing policy so that the notice period could be waived for all future applications from people fleeing sexual or domestic violence and abuse.