How to Deal with Landlord and Tenant Board Backlog
As reported recently in numerous media sources the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board has experienced significant backlogs and delays recently as a result of government funding cuts. The cuts have not only led to a shortage of adjudicators but have also placed a considerable strain on the back office staff who process applications and schedule hearings.
The result is that it now often takes months to get a hearing in some locations where before the cuts a hearing date was available within weeks.
While there is little that can be done about the underlying problem there are some effective steps that parties can employ to improve their chances of resolving a dispute in a timely manner:
One of the best ways to improve your chances of getting a quick date is to use the Board"s online filing system whenever possible. Often when filing an application online the Board is able to give a date immediately at the time of filing. where the Board does not give a date immediately it asks for unavailable dates and the application has to be manually scheduled at a later date. This places additional strain on the back office staff and can lead to significant delays.
Once a hearing date is scheduled that still does not ensure that's the case will be heard on the scheduled date. “Hearing blocks” (as they are called) consists of a group of applications to be heard at the same time and often involve more cases than can reasonably be expected to be completed. Those that are not completed have to be put over to another date to be continued. Again while this situation is somewhat unavoidable there are ways in which you can improve your chances of resolving your case on the specified date:
The first is to utilize the time spent waiting for the hearing and attempt to resolve the issue between the landlord and tenant by mediation. While the Board offers a free mediation service these resources are also quite strained and can only deal with as many matters as time allows on the hearing date. if you sign up for mediation and the mediator is not available to deal with the matter quickly you can risk losing your opportunity to have the application heard by the presiding Member of the Board.
In addition to the Board mediation service parties are able to negotiate privately to settle their disputes. while it is often difficult for landlords and tenants who are personally involved in the dispute to mediate themselves, most experienced legal representatives are skilled at mediation. As a third party who is not directly involved in the dispute they are generally able to speak to the other side without any emotional attachment and quickly determine the likelihood of a mutually acceptable resolution to the issue. If the issue can be resolved they can reduce the agreement to a consent to be presented to the presiding Member. Most Members appreciate consents as they help to alleviate the backlog and will even interrupt ongoing hearings in order to deal with matters where the parties consent so that they can be on their way.
There are of course those cases where the parties are unable to reach a consent even with the most skilled representation. in those cases it is essential to focus the evidence on the issue at hand and avoid evidence about other issues which are not relevant to the Board's determination. Many times landlords or tenants who represent themselves believe that by telling the Board their “whole story” and history of the relationship it will assist the Board in better understanding their position and deciding in their favour. While in some cases a limited degree of History can be of assistance, as a rule, Landlord and Tenant Board applications have a limited focus surrounding the grounds advanced in the application. Giving in to the tendency to speak about other issues not relevant to the application can lead to the hearing dragging on for months particularly given the Board's current delays. A skilled and experienced representative will be able to focus the inquiry on the relevant facts so as to have the matter determined in their client's favour as efficiently as possible. Given the rent arrears are often accruing during the hearing process the financial benefit of hiring a qualified representative often outweighs the cost of not doing so.
For a free consultation on a specific matter or to investigate whether we are able to assist you in efficiently resolving your dispute we invite you to contact our office.