It is well known among residential landlords, tenants and their advocates that legal procedures at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) are currently taking significantly longer. From the time an application is filed through the online Tribunals Ontario Portal to the time a hearing is finally scheduled, users can expect to wait for a period of at least five months.
This problem was already a concern at the LTB before the COVID-19 pandemic began, as landlords were experiencing significant wait times to have their matters heard by LTB adjudicators. The backlog became so serious that the Ontario Ombudsman opened an investigation into the LTB delays on January 9, 2020, after receiving at least 190 complaints from landlords and tenants during 2018-2019.
Ombudsman Dubé noted, “What we’re seeing in some of these complaints is that delays have a very real human impact. For example, when a landlord whose family relies on the rental income of a property has to go without that money for months before the LTB even schedules a hearing. Or when a tenant who has asked for repairs or is threatened with eviction has to live in limbo, waiting for the board’s decision.”
Tribunals Ontario also stated in their annual report that the LTB had not been meeting their operational standards since 2017 due to a shortage of adjudicators. However, the primary focus of the investigation conducted by the Ontario Ombudsman is to determine whether or not the provincial government is taking adequate steps to solve this issue. The investigation will also determine if there are other factors contributing to this problem such as relevant legislation, training, funding and technology.
As part of this investigation, the Ontario Ombudsman is encouraging affected parties or any person with relating information to file an online complaint on www.ombudsman.on.ca, or by phone 1-800-263-1830.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this substantial backlog worsened due to a moratorium imposed by the Superior Court. The Landlord and Tenant Board was ordered to suspend all residential evictions for non-urgent matters from March 19th to August 1st, 2020 which consequently increased the wait times significantly. According to Global News, the LTB ended the period of 2020-2021 with 34,731 active cases in comparison to 22,803 in 2019-2020, and 14,726 from the previous year. These active cases range from issues based on non-payment of rent to ending a tenancy for own use by a purchaser. In an effort to enhance the Access to Justice in Ontario, the Tribunals Ontario Portal was launched on December 8th, 2021 having the LTB as one of the first tribunals to try the new technology. This is a new case management system allowing landlords and tenants to file applications and pertaining paperwork for the LTB to process and schedule hearings. The LTB also moved its hearing model from an in-person setup to a virtual setup via Zoom. Further, the LTB hired more adjudicators to hear matters and streamlined mediation through the Online Dispute Resolution tool available on the portal. However, the LTB backlog continues.