The Landlord and Tenant Board is in crisis

While it was by no means a perfect system before moving online, the LTB could at least be relied on to follow its general principles of fairness

After losing so much already this year – jobs, incomes, and even loved ones – thousands of Ontario renters are finding themselves at the mercy of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) and desperately fighting to not lose their homes.

Already plagued by long delays before being shut down in March due to COVID-19, the LTB is plowing through a months-long backlog of disputes and eviction hearings – procedural fairness and human rights be damned.

The onslaught has created a laundry list of issues that are preventing tenants from participating in hearings and getting a fair shake, which is a right guaranteed to them under legislation.

All hearings are currently being held online, creating a significant barrier for low-income tenants that do not have access to technology or tenants with disabilities that cannot fully participate via video conferencing or over the phone.

A large number of notices of hearings have either been delayed or lost entirely in the mail, creating chaos and confusion – not to mention, setting up impossible timelines for tenants to prepare their case.

Legal representatives are buckling under the weight of the number of hearings, attending several a day without adequate time to meet with their clients or prepare arguments. Many renters have been left with little option but to move forward with their hearings with no legal representation.

To top it off, tenants are unable to make fairness arguments to dispute their eviction, which the LTB is required to consider under the Residential Tenancies Act.

The economic crisis caused by COVID-19, the fact that government supports like the Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit are not dollar-for-dollar income replacements, and the particular lockdown status of a city would all be highly relevant to fairness considerations.

This is in stark contrast to how things used to run at the LTB.

While it was by no means a perfect system before moving online, the LTB could at least be relied on to follow its general principles of administrative justice. Tenants used to have time to access legal counsel, prepare documentation, and make accommodation requests, all in advance of their hearing. Mediation was also available for tenants and landlords, rather than face the blunt instrument of eviction.

There are good reasons why these policies and procedures exist: losing your home is one of the most devastating life experiences – just ask anyone who’s been through it. International law recognizes eviction as a violation of human rights where access to justice is denied or where the eviction might lead to homelessness.

The processes in place at the LTB exist to protect vulnerable tenants. The recent “streamlining” of processes to address the backlog has come at the expense of these essential procedural protections.

While the LTB has been criticized for moving slowly in the past – a situation that was not helped by being woefully understaffed – moving slowly is not necessarily a bad thing when the decisions adjudicators make can fundamentally change (and ruin) lives.

By now, our governments are well aware of the long-lasting consequences of evicting people from their homes, not to mention the financial strain it places on other government services like our shelter systems. Eviction is a traumatizing experience that, like loss of employment and chronic poverty, can have serious physical and mental health consequences.

Evictions now would only increase tenants’ vulnerability to COVID-19, especially if the tenant has to live in a congregate shelter or double up with families or friends while looking for a new place to live. 

The consequences of making decisions at the LTB are serious for landlords, certainly, but can be life-altering and life-shattering for tenants. Eviction notices that aren’t served properly, having a bad phone connection or being unable to locate the mute button on Zoom – these are all things that can now be the difference between whether someone keeps their home or becomes homeless.

Until such time as the government can ensure the basic procedural rights guaranteed to Ontarians under law, a moratorium on evictions should be reinstated. In addition, a more sustainable solution for the many Ontarians facing the loss of their home is required, such as a rent forgiveness program or a grant-based rent bank. 

A motion passed in the Legislature is calling on the Ontario government to both reinstate the moratorium and prohibit eviction for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic. However, with the Legislature on hiatus until mid-February, an emergency order is needed for the moratorium to come into effect.

Pressure to move quickly is not worth the risk to people’s lives, nor is it worth what it is doing to undermine fundamental human rights. With a global pandemic and widespread job losses layered on top of a decades-long housing crisis, there has never been a time where the LTB should be moving more carefully.

Leilani Farha is global director of The Shift and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to housing (2014–2020). Alyssa Brierley is the executive director and general counsel of the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA).


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10 responses to “The Landlord and Tenant Board is in crisis”

  1. I don’t believe this. Creditors are gouging our life savings and investments to the bone and all you can do is talk about living decisions of the over endowed? Our insurance rates and utility costs have sky rocketrocked every year while the government has restricted our ability to make ends meet every year. Now you want us to just give all these poor wannabe blood suckers free room and board? Forget it. !

  2. While I generally agree with the sentiment in this article, I am really concerned with NOW magazine’s continuing practice of labeling opinion pieces as news. This isn’t news. It’s opinion.

  3. This is only an example of what the Government is doing behind the Pandemic curtain. Certainly not worth mainstream news and that is the commercial effect of Media…The problem is that the Landlords/owners have a master they must feed- Mortgages, Investors, Taxes, and until this food chain relents, The Landlord may not be the Dragon here and can be easily a victim as the Tenant. Everyone here has responsibilities of varying degrees. Don’t make Landlords/owners the scapegoat.

  4. Landlords/property owners have enjoyed double digit property value increases year after year, all the time raising rents every year as much as possible. They’ve enjoyed renovictions when it’s to their benefit. The government officials who lifted the moratorium need to replace it or be replaced. Quit helping to make residents, many with children, homeless U Jerks! Government is on paid vacation until Feb 2021. The LTB is a disgrace, they should all be replaced/evicted and forced to deal with being jobless and homeless. What they are doing is indeed against the law. This Covid virus is an unforeseeable pandemic causing record job losses and business closures. This is no time to force more people into the streets or overcrowded shelters. How many of them now have Covid and how many will end up with ongoing physical and/or mental health problems or even die? How many fires have we had in the homeless encampments this month? As long as the landlords and government are happy and comfortable. Unfortunate residents unable to keep up with rent facing illegal evictions are just pestering numbers they want to dispose of. It’s time landlords took a hit for a change. Step it up Ford.

    • Yeah and you’re probably one of these scum bags like the tenants I have that haven’t paid rent for over 6 months now and seem to have no intention to do so. Take your head out of your ass and realize that most landlords are not the big bad scary guys you think they are. They are people with families and responsibilities and could easily get in trouble if the government created parasites of society get even more Leigh way.
      For your information, I’ve lost my business due to this Covid nonsense so I have to rely on my property income now.
      Where I do agree with you is that the LTB is indeed useless. It’s an outright crime that a landlord had to wait 10 months before they could maybe get some kind of ruling on a tenant that hasn’t paid all that time. Great job. Just not sure at what point landlords had to start picking up where government had left off long ago.

  5. Landlords have enjoyed double digit property value increases year after year, all the time raising rents as much as possible, including renovictions when it’s convenient for them. It’s time they took a hit and/or at least work with government to stop the life shattering evictions, especially at this time. Ford needs to step up and replace the moratorium on rent since the legislature is on hiatus/paid vacation until mid February. This is an emergency. The LTB is focused on helping landlords.

  6. What about landlords that have to subsidize tenants that don’t pay?
    If you don’t pay your rent, you deserve to be homeless.

  7. Then do complain about families living in cars or minivans. I see many single people living on the street and former essential workers and vets and truck and Uber drivers living in shelters. We need to protect low income families with better rent assistance. In my case a wind storm hit my house over 7 years ago . I have lived on the street and in homeless shelters that caused me to loose use of my right foot. The food in the shelters is not good enough for people with blood sugar issues caused many people to loose a leg or arm and needing larger amounts of medical care. I understand that many people on Ont works or C R B can not afford current rents after loosing their job or reduced income.

  8. Why is it the tenants home? The tenant has no liability but it is their home.

    Who pays the taxes and the expenses? The Landlord. Encourage people to buy homes and not occupy.

    Ask the government for assisted housing and do not occupy homes. Landlords do not have a gold mine. They work hard to buy homes. They abstain from spending and live a modest lifestyle so they could buy a home.

    Small landlords need help too. Stop playing the victim card. Most of the tenants are drug addicts and big time spenders.

  9. Maybe be the author of this article should try housing some of these non paying Tenants. Mine inherited 100,000 in January but owes me 7000 in back rent…do not paint all Tenants with the same brush…some on riding the free train as long as the government and LTB allows it…get all the facts before writing an article like this.

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