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  • Petar Guzina

The LTB Has "Re-Opened" - What Can Landlords and Tenants Expect?

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

The Landlord and Tenant Board in Ontario has re-opened, so to speak. Although the Board continued to operate during the provincially declared state of emergency, all eviction orders and hearings were suspended save for the few that the Board considered urgent. Eviction applications account for approximately 85% of all Board applications. After the Province's last extension of the declared emergency was allowed to lapse in late July, the Landlord and Tenant Board announced that it would recommence the issuance of eviction orders and the scheduling of eviction hearings. From the Landlord and Tenant Board website:

Previously scheduled in-person hearings postponed due to COVID-19 will be rescheduled and held by videoconference, phone or in writing. Hearings for new applications will also be held by videoconference, phone or in writing.

Videoconference hearings will use Microsoft Teams. If videoconference is not feasible, the LTB will make telephone participation available. Requests for accommodation will inform alternate hearing formats.

If you have a scheduled hearing, the LTB will send you updated information as soon as possible. (sic)

Before speculating about what we can expect, let's consider the state of the Landlord and Tenant Board as it was before the declared emergency.

Firstly, the system is not as efficient as it used to be. The statistics put out by the LTB show that in early 2016 there was an average time of approximately 23 business days from filing an application to the first scheduled hearing date. The difference in time between landlord applications and tenant applications was approximately 2 days. By the end of 2016, the average time had grown to about 28 business days for landlord applications and 32 business days for tenant applications. By the end of 2018 it was averaging 37 business days for landlord applications and 44 business days for tenant applications. The 2018 averages are between 7-9 weeks when counted in calendar days as compared to about 4 1/2 weeks in early 2016.

The last period for which the LTB has released statistics is the first quarter of 2019. Although the 2019 statistics separate out most of the non-payment of rent applications and report them separately, there appears to be little change between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 for the average time between filing an application and the first hearing date.

What has happened since the beginning of 2019? Anyone who has regularly attended Landlord and Tenant Board hearings will tell you the time between filing an application and a scheduled hearing has grown. As a Board member, I would see the filing date and hearing date on the applications that came before me. I would also hear from staff and landlord and tenant representatives alike about the length of the delay that they were witnessing. By the end of 2019, when my final term as a Member of the Landlord and Tenant Board was coming to an end, the Board was scheduling hearings for April and into May 2020. That is a delay of about 4 months. There was nothing to indicate the delay was shortened between my departure from the Board and the provincial declaration of emergency in March 2020.

Anyone familiar with Landlord and Tenant Board hearings will know that they are generally run as "standing room only" events. I know of a former Member who used to describe the parties in the Board's hearing rooms as sitting "cheek by jowl".

As noted, the Board will not be starting in-person hearings at this time. Rather, hearings will be held by video-conference, phone, or in writing. I have heard some praise for the telephone hearing process during the provincially declared emergency, but this praise has been limited to tenant application hearings which the person felt were usually longer and more drawn out when conducted as in-person hearings . It may well be that the delay in getting a hearing has been reduced for tenant applications during this time. Certainly parties and representatives alike prefer getting a start time for their hearing and not having to wait for other matters to be heard.

My experience as a Board member leads me to believe that these electronic hearings cannot be as efficient as in-person hearings. Perhaps each individual hearing may be dealt with in approximately the same amount of time as an in-person hearing. However, it is unclear how the electronic hearing process will be able to replicate what takes place at hearing sites, which is where I believe the efficiency in a system such as this really comes to the fore. How will the new processes incorporate mediation, duty counsel, and onsite settlement negotiations? Will these aspects run seamlessly in the background as they, for the most part, do during in-person hearings? I think not.

In the midst of the greatest backlog and longest delay to get a hearing in it's history, the Board is embarking on a wholesale change in the way that it schedules and holds hearings. I may be wrong, but I cannot see how the Board will be able to return to the levels of efficiency that it was experiencing in 2016, such as they were, without in-person hearings. If the Board manages to implement an electronic and remote hearing process that is as efficient as the in-person hearing process, it won't happen overnight and it will take time to get that point.

This brings us back to the point of this blog entry - what can we expect? The Board has begun rescheduling hearings that were suspended in March 2020. At least 85% of the suspended hearings require rescheduling. That would take approximately 3 1/2 months to schedule under the "cheek by jowl" model. With the reduced capacity for scheduling due to not conducting in-person hearings, the Board will not be able to get through the applications requiring rescheduling by the end of this year. We can expect that applications filed after the government declared an emergency will not be regularly scheduled to be heard until 2021. I say regularly scheduled as that some will likely be heard before the end of the year, but I suspect only after the granting of a request for an urgent hearing. In addition, any improvements in scheduling tenant applications are likely to be lost as the eviction applications are rescheduled.

As the Board resumes eviction proceedings, I cautiously propose that it be viewed as not necessarily getting better but rather a slowing of the pace at which things are getting worse.

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