It’s been nearly a year since the former Ontario government rolled out 28 pilot courses on financial literacy as part of a possible revamp of the high-school civics and careers course.
Since the election, the new Ford government has stressed it will indeed revamp this curriculum as well.
Premier Doug Ford said, “Financial literacy is an essential life skill that will benefit students for years beyond the classroom. Our consultations on education will include adding practical and valuable knowledge to the curriculum to help prepare students for success in the real world.”
In fact, financial literary is one of the subject matters under review in ongoing Ministry of Education consultations (not just sex education).
But for students, financial literary needs to be more than just learning how to balance a cheque book. Affording a home is the largest part of any young person’s budget. And, youth are looking to rent, not buy.
A financial literacy curriculum needs to include learning about the basics of rental rights and procedures.
In a recent column, an associate editor at The Huffington Post argued for exactly that, writing, “Millennials are renting more often than their predecessors, due in large part to skyrocketing housing prices in urban centres. This isn’t likely to change anytime soon. As such, financial literacy programs must include tenancy rights”.
As Francis Bacon said, “knowledge is power,” but for too many tenants, an understanding of their rights as tenants is not something with which they are familiar, and this can allow for tenants to feel pressured into accepting less than they are entitled to by problem landlords or to take ill-advised actions to assert their interests. Tenants often don’t know their rights around things like “reno-victions” or the parameters around “landlord’s own use” evictions, much less the correct procedures to argue their case.
The fact is, Ontario has a series of tenant rights, including strict regulations around evictions, rent control, and state-of-good repair requirements. Yet, a tenant who is unaware of those rights—or even a tenant who has only a vague idea of what they’re entitled to but is unable to access the resources to assert those rights against a landlord—is in a precarious position.
In other words, financial literacy requires knowing something about the rights renters have in legislation, and how to either advocate for oneself or to know when to seek advice at a legal clinic to assert those rights.
For many tenants, being able to know their rights is half the battle, as they can speak up for themselves. This is not to suggest just knowing one’s rights is a panacea; in some cases, a tenant may still need access to legal counsel.
But knowing what’s what about rental rights is a first step—forewarned is forearmed. (Tenants who need information now may visit our association’s website at rentalrights.ca or may contact the Landlord and Tenant Board directly.)
Tenant rights and rental procedures are a necessary part of any financial literacy curriculum, and including this information would show an understanding from the Ford government on the pressures young people face in today’s economy.