By Chris Seepe
LTB – letters known to residential landlords as Landlord & Tenant Board but better described as “Loves Tenants Best, Landlords To Blame, Let Tenants Be” and other similar themes. Perhaps the most divinely inspired joke is the anagram of “landlordtenantboard” – “abandon rent, add troll.”
The LTB in Ontario, broken for years, is now resorting to deliberate underhandedness to further frustrate landlords into abandoning their right of due process.
Above Guideline Increase (AGI) applications are taking over a year to set hearing dates and three to five months to issue an order after all parties have agreed. But, woe betide you if you complain.
We filed our first AGI application on Sept. 11, 2018 and a second for another property on March 11, 2019. After several emails over four months went unanswered, we received a letter from LTB regional manager Lynn DiCaire dated Oct. 4, 2019. The “preliminary” hearing dates for the first and second AGIs were Nov. 22, 2019 (one year) and Nov. 8, 2019 (eight months) respectively. However, the LTB allowed only 2.5 business days to deliver the 25-page Notice of Hearing (NOH) to every tenant in the building, despite setting the hearing dates 10 days earlier.
The NOH states, “Where a … Hearing is rescheduled as a result of the applicant’s failure to serve … the Board may consider costs against the applicant.” And, “Once service has been completed, you must file the Certificate of Service (COS) … with the Board” but no instructions were provided on how to do this. The COS states, “… any tenants who were not served … the application may be amended to remove those tenants.”
If we’d not delivered the NOH within the 2.5 days, I’d wager the LTB would have added three months because “we” delayed the NOH.
Our paralegal, who does only AGI applications, wrote, “The practice of late is for the board to provide as little advance time (as possible) for landlords to serve the tenants.”
Two letters to Attorney General Doug Downey ([email protected]), five letters to the AGI Unit in Ottawa ([email protected]), seven letters to the LTB East office ([email protected]) and five letters to SJTO Complaints (Social Justice Tribunals Ontario – [email protected]) all went unanswered. However, the LTB retaliated by rescheduling the first AGI hearing to Jan. 24, 2020 – 1.2 years after filing, which doesn’t include the three to five months for the decision to be issued afterwards.
The LTB discloses to any tenant affected by the AGI the private financial information about each of the other tenant’s rent amounts. The Privacy Commissioner says that the information is not the landlord’s private information, so each tenant would have to file their own complaint.
We filed a simple case on May 28, 2019 against a tenant who refused to accept any responsibility for the estimated $4,000 damage caused by them not turning off the water valve of their overflowing toilet. The case was heard Aug. 26, 2019 (three months). Decisions are routinely rendered about 11 days later. We received no decision, so we requested an update Sept. 17, 2019. Three days later we received a terse “we’ll get to it” reply.
On Sept. 30, 2019 we escalated the compliant to SJTO Complaints, alleging the member had grossly abused her judicial power during the hearing and asked that the hearing audio recording be reviewed. The auto-reply email stated that they’d respond within 15 business days. After more than two months and eight follow up letters, we’ve not received a reply from the LTB or SJTO.
The LTB takes about 11 days to issue a standard order after the hearing. There’s no legislative requirement for this. This grants a tenant two more weeks of free rent. The LTB sets the eviction date for a Friday so if the tenant didn’t move out by that date, you can’t go to the sheriff’s office until the following week, losing another week of rent. The sheriff’s office schedules evictions only on Fridays, despite the huge backlog. It issues a “Notice to Vacate” and waits 11 more days for a tenant’s reply or non-reply, which again lands on a Friday or Saturday, giving the tenant two more rent-free weeks. There’s no legislative requirement for this delay either. The eviction date is then set three to six weeks after that.
During this time the tenant has not paid any rent, since they’re being evicted anyway. Minutes before the eviction, the tenant has the right to pay all rent arrears and court costs to void the eviction. This is like a retail store customer caught shoplifting being lawfully permitted to continue shopping by simply paying for what they tried to steal.
If you have a non-rent payment issue, the Rental Housing Enforcement Unit reportedly resolves within two days about 75 per cent of about 25,000 complaints received annually.
Your best bet to change tenancy legislation is with the generally “deaf” MPPs. If you’ve truly had enough, you could sell your property to a “minimalist” operator. Aside from the large operators who enjoy economies of scale, only these low-end operators seem to be able to make a living owning and operating residential rental properties in Ontario.