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The group that resolves disputes between landlords and tenants in eastern Ontario has only two adjudicators hearing cases, with four vacancies causing long delays and cancelled hearings.

Both sides and their advocates say the situation at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) can’t continue much longer.

“I won’t mince words: the Landlord and Tenant Board is in a crisis,” said tenant lawyer Daniel Tucker-Simmons, who said long delays now stretch to three to four months to have a case heard.

Ontario’s LTB’s standard is a hearing within 25 to 30 business days, depending on the issue.

Tucker-Simmons said even when he gets a hearing and a tenant books off work to attend, there have been at least three occasions when there was no adjudicator to even hear the case.

“[We] arrive and we’re told there’s no adjudicator available today, told ‘Guess what, your emergency housing situation, your emergency maintenance situation, your emergency eviction — we can’t deal with it today,” he said.

Tucker-Simmons said a case cancelled in late January involved a tenant demanding a landlord fix a serious bed bug infestation.

“He was devastated,” said Tucker-Simmons, who said he still has not been given a new date for a hearing.

Landlords equally affected

Lawyers representing landlords are not happy with the situation either.

Lawyer David Lyman, the vice-president with the Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization, said he too has shown up for scheduled hearings in downtown Ottawa to be told no adjudicator can preside over the case.

A three- to four-month delay for a tenant not paying rent can be catastrophic for a small landlord who has to pay the mortgage regardless, said Lyman.

Other situations are emergencies for both the landlord and tenants in adjacent apartments, he said, describing a landlord currently waiting for a hearing date to access a home where police discovered an illegal marijuana grow-op.

He said the tenant is refusing to leave to allow repairs to begin.

“That landlord is feeling extremely frustrated,” said Lyman, who has yet to even get a date for a hearing.

“It boggles the mind that we aren’t able to move forward with this process.”

Delay naming adjudicators

There are currently two full-time adjudicators remaining from the usual cadre of six in Ottawa.

Adjudicators are appointed by the Ontario Attorney General under term limits, with renewals typically up to ten years for the same tribunal.

However, since the 2018 election term limits were allowed to lapse without renewal, while other adjudicators left for new opportunities, such as its former vice-chair.

As the numbers dwindled, the workload for those remaining have become increasingly unbearable, according to sources familiar with the office.

“This is complete incompetence on the part of the province,” said Tucker-Simmons, suggesting the situation was preventable.

The delay in appointments has been a problem affecting LTB offices across Ontario and is the subject of an investigation by the Ontario ombudsman launched in January.

“The ombudsman has already received more than 110 complaints about delays in the first nine months of the current fiscal year, including 43 last month alone,” the office said at the time.

Replacements appointed

A spokesperson with the attorney general’s office placed the onus for the shortage on the arms-length agency that gives the department a list of candidates.

“The recruitment for members of the Board is an ongoing process and the Minister looks forward to receiving additional recommendations from Tribunals Ontario so we can continue appointing LTB adjudicators and filling vacancies,” wrote Brian Gray in an email to CBC.

Since November, the province appointed a new vice-chair, two other full-time adjudicators and a third part-time in Ottawa, but all are still in training.

Lyman and Tucker-Simmons said government should consider over-staffing the board for a few months until the backlog is cleared.

1 francophone adjudicator for Ontario

One of the only two adjudicators hearing cases currently also serves as the only francophone adjudicator serving the entire province of Ontario.

Tucker-Simmons said francophone tenants and landlords are not well served in Ontario and he has had clients opt instead for an English hearing because of the urgency of their cases.

The incoming vice-chair is francophone.


Story by: CBC