What is the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act?
SCAN is a piece of legislation passed by the Provincial government in 2007 with the stated purpose of empowering local residents to engage in monitoring their community and reporting activities which they think are adversely affecting their property. Homeowners or tenants are held accountable for allegedly harmful activities that regularly take place on or near their property. Because these matters are typically related to prostitution, organized crime, unlawful drug use, dealing, production, cultivation, and other related unlawful activities; there is at times overlap between those affected by SCAN and individuals facing criminal charges.
Where this becomes concerning is that anonymous complaints against the tenant or owner can be made simply on a suspicion provided by a complainant who believes their neighbourhood is being adversely affected by the activities on or near the resident’s property. As long as the complainant states she believes the suspected activities are habitual and for a specified use, the threshold to make a complaint is met. There is a lack of procedural protection that allows the resident to confront and defend the allegations.
SCAN allows for a tenant to be easily ousted from their property with very little notice and for that property to be searched and modified, all without their consent. The tenant has no legal right to access the identity of the complainants or the original complaint. This operates notwithstanding the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. If the Director decides not to act on a complaint, the complainant may apply directly to the Court for a Community Safety Order (“CSO”). A CSO can result in a subsequent removal order. The Director is not required to give reasons for any decision that is made.
Section 7 of SCAN states that a CSO can require any or all persons to vacate the property on or before a specified date by the Court, and enjoin any or all of them from re-entering or reoccupying it. Pursuant to section 3, a CSO can terminate the tenancy agreement, close the property from use, and keep it closed for up to 90 days. Whether the respondent is the owner of the property or not.
In comparison, the Residential Tenancy Act, SA 2004, c R-17.1 [“RTA”], allows for landlords to evict tenants with one month to one year’s notice. In extreme circumstances of a substantial breach, tenants can be ousted with a minimum of 14 days notice. This provision exists as a safeguard so that no tenant can be left homeless, and is given fair notice even in the most extenuating circumstances. Unfortunately, section 35 of SCAN trumps the RTA, and does not afford tenants this same safeguard. By implementing a CSO, a Court can set a date of their choice that immediately terminates a lease and requires all persons to vacate the property. Even more troubling, the RTA does not apply to owners. This has the potential to render all respondents affected by the CSO homeless, whether they are tenants or owners.
The provisions of SCAN offer no guidance to tenants who may be served a CSO. Unlike the RTA, there is no legislative minimum of 14 days to give a tenant adequate notice or allow them to seek advice as to how to respond. Once a CSO is granted, the tenant may become homeless immediately upon effect.
The legislation does not address what is to come of tenants who have no alternative living arrangements aside from their own home. The legislation does not address what is to come if they are not financially capable of closing, securing, and keeping their property closed. The legislation does address the concerning matter that the tenant is forced, against their will, out of their home during the closure period or once the tenancy has been terminated. SCAN has never been tested to determine whether its broad spectrum of powers is Constitutional or whether it constitutes a serious infringement of people’s liberty and a draconian approach to penalization rather than keeping communities safer.
If you have been served with a Notice or Order issued pursuant to SCAN, contact one of the lawyers at Royal & Company right away to help you understand your rights and remedies.