Lessons Learned From My Landlord Tenant Board Hearing
Thursday Sep 28th, 2023
CBC posted an article today regarding the current state of the Landlord Tenant Board’s system on resolving landlord and tenant disputes. Unfortunately, I can verify that everything written in this article is true, because I myself was involved in a hearing that took place just a couple of days ago.
Recently, my tenant who has been occupying my rental unit since 2018 was a casualty of mass layoffs in his industry, and despite best efforts, was unable to secure new employment. Because of this, he stopped paying his rent. While I could manage a flexible re-payment plan for a couple of months, I was not prepared to cover him for the time this dragged on. I proposed a few options to resolve the matter, but he was not amenable to none. Eventually, I filed an application with the Landlord Tenant Board in April to terminate the lease and have him evicted.
My hearing date was set for September and while it was not as delayed as it was during the height of the pandemic, the amount in arrears continued to climb as the months ticked on, and the debt was starting to mount on my end. As the article mentions, to a corporation with many units and possible cases, lost rent is merely the cost of doing business, but for small-time landlords such as myself and many of our clients, it can be a significant financial burden.
Throughout this process, I’ve learned 3 lessons:
1. Relationship is Key – making sure that you have the right tenant in place is a given, but fostering a good landlord-tenant relationship is also vital. Promptly responding to concerns and maintenance issues on the landlord side will help to build goodwill towards the relationship. Good communication is key to resolving disputes, especially when it is so difficult to proceed through the Landlord Tenant Board system in a timely manner.
2. Know The Rules – The Residential Tenancies Act seems to be biased towards tenant rights, so it is not surprising that 90% of the 38,000 outstanding cases as of May 2023 were initiated by landlords. Faced with a housing shortage, if there is any hope in encouraging investors to own properties that create rental housing, landlords need more support. However, many issues/disputes are a result of simply not understanding your rights or responsibilities as a landlord. Investing in real estate and owning a rental property sounds like a great idea, but few landlords take the time/effort to educate themselves on how to be a landlord, resulting in disputes that clog the resolution system.
3. Get Professional Assistance – even though I help clients navigate their landlord-tenant relationships every day, I felt like I was fish out of water. The process is complex, the paperwork is complicated, and unless you have a law degree or have experience with formal legal proceedings, the whole thing can be intimidating. The hearing is conducted via Zoom, and the main hearing Zoom room is open to all individuals involved in the cases on the docket for the assigned timeslot. My observation is that those landlords/tenants with representation had their matters resolved quickly.
So what happened in my case? My tenant started some contract work in July and was able to start chipping away at the amount of rent arrears owing to me. For reasons unknown, he did not show up to the hearing, so my case was presented as “uncontested” before the Adjudicator. However, due to an error of mine during the filing process, I was given the option to withdraw my application and start over, or accept a judgement for arrears only (without a ruling for eviction). This was also the case in a number of other cases I witnessed that day, and also mentioned by one of the examples cited in the CBC article.
I consider myself lucky since my tenant has made significant efforts towards paying off his rent arrears owing but others are not so fortunate. Even if I was granted an eviction notice on my hearing date, it only allows me to proceed to the next step of filing an eviction request with the Sheriff’s office, facing another system with further delays. Plus once a tenant is evicted, landlords are then tasked with having to repair any damage in the rental unit, and pursuing their former tenant through Small Claims Court for rental arrears.
While this post is not meant to deter landlords from owning rental properties, it is a reminder that there is an imperfect system in place that we must go through in order to settle landlord tenant disputes. If you know the rules, are a conscientious landlord and perform the right due diligence to find your tenant, you may be able to avoid having to navigate through the complex process of filing an application with the Landlord Tenant Board. However if you find yourself in a situation where you need assistance, seek the help of a professional paralegal who is well-versed in tenancy issues, to ensure that your matter is resolved in a timely manner.