Balancing the Need to Keep Both Residents and Staff Safe and Protected as Ontario Re-opens
On July 7, 2021, the RHRA provided information to licensed retirement homes on balancing the rights of the resident and obligations to protect the health and safety of staff.
From time to time, and in particular during the height of the pandemic, the RHRA heard of individuals being “banned” from retirement homes. It is worth noting that the RHRA has had very few complaints of homes engaging in this practice; specifically, four in total since 2014. RHRA treats all complaints seriously and looks into every one it receives.
As Ontario continues to re-open, we remind all licensed retirement homes that residents are tenants and have rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA), including rights to invite visitors to their homes and to the reasonable enjoyment of their suite.
Moreover, licensees have obligations under the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 (Act) not to interfere with external care providers and to protect residents from abuse, including emotional abuse. Observing the rights of residents and the obligations of licensees may be challenging for licensees. Licensees must balance the needs of residents and staff, particularly as licensees have responsibilities under Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act to keep a safe and well-maintained workplace and to take all reasonable precautions to protect staff from illness and/or injury.
Under the Act, licensees have obligations to protect their residents and staff. The RTA prohibits a landlord from substantially interfering with the reasonable enjoyment of a tenant of their suite. Whether restricting a visitor’s access is appropriate will depend on the circumstances of that case. Licensees and their staff are also prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against an individual who reports matters or provides information to the RHRA, including “banning” them from the retirement home.
Where licensees have breached their obligations under the Act, the RHRA will take appropriate action. Further, residents who believe that their tenancy rights have been breached under the RTA may seek remedies at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Visitors must be respectful and conduct themselves appropriately when visiting a resident in a retirement home. Should a licensee experience a challenging situation when balancing responsibilities and obligations to protect the health and safety of both residents and staff, we encourage retirement homes to take a mediatory approach and consider seeking legal advice. In general, licensees are encouraged to seek independent legal advice when they have questions about their obligations under the Act or the RTA.