By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) of Ontario was designed to address incoming cases within 30 days. Nonetheless, a recent report by Ontario’s ombudsman, has underscored significant delays caused by systemic shortcomings.
According to ombudsman Paul Dubé , the LTB backlog was as high as 38,000 at the time of his investigation. Cases now take an average of seven to eight months to address.
Although some officials say that the ombudsman’s report doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the situation as various issues are reportedly being rectified, Ontario’s NDP members claim that the problem is becoming worse.
Scarborough Southwest MPP Doly Begum told Beach Metro Community News that her office receives a high number of inquiries about the LTB delays.
“People shouldn’t wait for months, if not years, to get a hearing,” said Begum. “We’re not talking about actual LTB decisions. We’re talking about a hearing.”
Begum says in her constituency there are many landlords who are not getting paid by tenants, as well as tenants who are forced to move out due to rent increases without proper procedure.
Some, she said, have to endure unsafe, or unhealthy, mold-infested environments with no end in sight.
The ombudsman report highlights other serious situations.
“(One) tenant complained about a delay in resolving her landlord’s application to terminate the tenancy of another resident, who was violent,” said the report.
The victim, according to the ombudsman, reported being assaulted by another tenant who attempted to “cut her throat and drag her into his unit” on September 20, 2020.
“The Board heard the landlord’s application on an urgent basis on October 30, 2020. However, it took another two months before the order was issued,” stated the report.
Most of the 4,000 complaints Dubé received prior to opening his investigation were from landlords.
But Begum, and her colleagues, take issue with the fact that tenants, on average, have far longer wait periods than landlords – some reporting wait times of up to two years.
Some officials have defended the current backlog, citing the pandemic as the cause of delays. But, reports show that the issues highlighted by Dubé predated COVID-19.
According to the ombudsman, the pandemic accelerated the backlog but there were already 20,000 pending cases before the LTB that were forced to transition to virtual meetings – further hindering their ability to efficiently get through the cases.
The failures were partly due to outdated technology. But Dubé emphasizes that “there are numerous areas where Board practices could be improved.”
These areas in need of revision include identification and processing of cases requiring French language services; application screening; hearing scheduling and case triaging; managing adjournments; identification and processing of urgent cases; tracking of the expiration of member terms; order issuance; monitoring of outstanding orders and mediations; and member recruitment and appointments – an issue that caught the attention of critics.
“They’ve made a whole mockery of the whole government agency’s appointment process,” said Begum. “These appointments are done in a very partisan manner and without proper committee questioning.”
Begum says that upon appointment, adjudicators can be questioned by a committee which aims to find out their qualification for the position.
“The government has denied our request multiple times and actually gone ahead with the appointments,” she said. “So that is a huge problem in all tribunals when it comes to the way people are appointed to these important bodies.”
The ombudsman says that Ontario’s government has promised to invest $6.5 million to appoint 40 new adjudicators that will help streamline the process.
Begum urges the LTB to adopt the 61 recommendations made by the ombudsman.
One recommendation calls for legislative change that will “eliminate potential reduction of adjudicative capacity connected with elections.” This is because the initial delays, before the pandemic, were reportedly caused by a decline in new adjudicators resulting from 2018’s transition to a new government which resulted in a slowing down of appointments.
“The timely and efficient service to which the public is entitled from the Board has not been a reality for many years,” said Dubé in his report. “I will closely monitor the efforts of the Board, Tribunals Ontario and the Ministry to address the issues we have uncovered.”
— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.