It’s 9:00am on a sunny Tuesday. Landlords, tenants, and agents are lined up to sign in to the attendance record at the Landlord and Tenant Board for their hearings.
The landlords paid $170 each for this “day in court”. The tenants paid either $45 or $0, depending on the type of case they filed.
By 9:20am, the mediators, duty counsel and representatives are buzzing around looking for opposing parties, clients, or folks interested in mediation. It’s easy to tell who has been here before. As always, a number of “mom and pop” type landlords are looking a little lost. Not sure where to sit, what the process will entail, they do their best to settle in and await the commencement of the hearing block.
Outside the hearing room, a line is forming for tenants to speak with free duty counsel provided by Legal Aid Ontario. A large placard in the lobby clearly advertises this service. Often, small landlords, new to the game, wonder why no one is waiting to answer their questions or offer even minimal advice. It’s hard to watch them struggle.
One of the people in that line is clearly intoxicated, and a little disorderly. It’s going to be a memorable morning….
It’s 9:30am and the adjudicator calls the hearing block to order, and delivers his/her usual preamble to familiarize the gallery with the process that will unfold that day. Despite the clear directive, it never fails: someone’s cell phone rings or dings or blings during a hearing. Some folks carry on conversations in the gallery, making it next to impossible to follow the hearing going on. It’s just another day at the LTB.
By 10:00am things are well underway. Some tenants are still trickling in, an hour late. Not to worry, they are still entitled to their meeting with duty counsel, and that case was just about to be called! So much for that landlord escaping anytime soon…
The mediators are in and out of the hearing room, and having some success getting matters resolved “on consent”, or by mediated agreement, playing a key role in clearing off the day’s docket and providing a much needed “full and final” resolution for many landlords and tenants.
It’s close to the lunch hour, and things are heating up. An unrepresented small landlord has just presented his case to the adjudicator. His tenants haven’t paid a penny of rent in 4 months, and he’s anxious for an Order terminating the tenancy.
The adjudicator turns to the tenants and asks them if they agree with the amount of rent they are alleged to owe. The tenants admit to not paying, but they say they have a good reason: the apartment has “serious issues”. They fire off a list of problems: apparently the furnace is noisy. There is mold in the bathroom. There is a broken window in the second bedroom. And until these issues are fixed, they are not willing to pay rent. The adjudicator turns to the landlord, who is slack jawed… he says he leased these tenants an immaculate apartment with no known maintenance defects! And to boot: this is the first he’s heard of any of these issues, despite the fact he has been to the door numerous times looking for rent! Welcome to the horror called “Section 82” of the RTA, which allows this “trial by ambush”, going on at an LTB hearing near you every day.
This landlord has a choice: sit through this claim, which allows the tenants to ask for an abatement of rent, with absolutely no ability to defend himself, or agree to an adjournment of the matter to allow him to gather his own evidence. Any way you slice it, a severe prejudice to a small landlord who can ill afford to carry this home without rent coming in!
Welcome to a day at the LTB, from the eyes of the Terminator, seasoned vet of the LTB and passionate advocate for landlord rights!
April 22, 2011
Photo credit: Kate Daubs/Toronto Star