Toronto

Report on backlog at Landlord and Tenant Board says Ontario government seems willing to let situation 'fester'

A group that keeps tabs on Ontario's tribunals is speaking out about a backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

Province says work ongoing to streamline process at Landlord and Tenant Board

X
In a new report, Tribunal Watch Ontario says there were 53,000 unresolved cases at the Landlord and Tenant Board as of March 2023 — impacting at least one million Ontarians. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

A group that keeps tabs on Ontario's tribunals is speaking out about a backlog at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).

In a new report, Tribunal Watch Ontario says there were 53,000 unresolved cases at the LTB as of March 2023 — impacting at least one million Ontarians. The LTB resolves disputes between landlords and tenants.

The group's president, Kathy Laird, says the LTB has been failing for years and the situation is getting worse.

"We're seeing a situation where this backlog has accumulated and it's affecting an enormous amount of people," Laird told CBC News.

"It is extraordinary that the government seems to be willing to just let the situation fester."

X
Tribunal Watch Ontario president, Kathy Laird, says the LTB has been failing for years and the situation is getting worse. (Shin Imai)

Laird, a retired human rights lawyer, said the board used to handle about 80,000 applications a year but has been handling fewer applications every year since the Progressive Conservatives formed government in 2018.

The LTB has twice as many adjudicators and received more funding, Laird said. But in the past three years, its annual caseload has dropped by more than 50,000 from what it once was.

"The caseload is going down, the resources are going way up, the backlog is going up and the number of cases resolved every year is going down," she said. "What gives?"

Tribunal Watch Ontario believes the provincial government needs to step in, Laird said.

Province outlines initiatives to address backlog

A spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General says work is ongoing to streamline the process at the LTB.

"The Ministry of the Attorney General, Tribunals Ontario and the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) have been working to address the accumulation of active cases before the Board," Natasha Krstajic wrote in an email to CBC News.

"The Ministry of the Attorney General continues to work with Tribunals Ontario to ensure the appropriate level of adjudicator resources at the LTB."

Last May, a report published by provincial ombudsman Paul Dubé found the LTB was "fundamentally failing" to fulfil its mandate. The report noted tenants sometimes faced "insurmountable challenges" accessing online hearings, adding that many do not have access to phones or computers.

WATCH | Ontario ombudsman details the worst of tenant, landlord cases stalled at LTB: 

Ontario ombudsman details the worst of tenant, landlord cases stalled at LTB

1 year ago
Duration 0:50
Paul Dubé says both landlords and tenants deserve to have a better system to settle their disputes.

Since the release of that report, the Ontario government has made 38 full-time appointments and 27 part-time appointments to the LTB, Krstajic said.

She listed several other initiatives being taken to address the backlog and improve client service:

  • Increasing the number of adjudicators and operational staff, including spending $6.5 million to appoint 40 more adjudicators and five new staff.
  • Providing adjudicators with more training to support efficient file and hearing management.
  • Completing the implementation of the new case management system.
  • Reviewing processes to find opportunities for operational efficiencies.
  • Enhancing Tribunals Ontario call centre technology.

The ministry will keep working with Tribunals Ontario and the LTB to improve operations and the quality of dispute resolution, Krstajic said.

According to Laird, more than half of the cases before the board are applications from landlords for arrears of rent.

Tenant applications, she said, are often about maintenance issues, such as people living with leaky ceilings or broken flooring. Other issues before the LTB include above guideline rent increases, evictions for renovation or evictions for demolition.

'Expedited process' needed: landlord

One small landlord says it's especially frustrating for those waiting to evict tenants who aren't paying.

Boubah Bah says it takes a minimum five months to get a hearing, after which you have to wait up to 60 days to get the order, then another two months on the sheriff to enforce the order.

"The government has to realize the people who are the solution for affordable housing are small landlords," Bah said.

"[Small landlords] do have property to rent but they are afraid. So, the solution is to incentivise them by reducing the wait time at the Landlord and Tenant Board."

The vast majority of the applications are for non-payment, Bah said, so there is "no reason why there should be a full hearing for a non-payment.… This should be an expedited process."

A man with glasses
Douglas Kwan is the Director of Advocacy and Legal Services for ACTO, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

Douglas Kwan, director of advocacy and legal services at Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, isn't surprised the LTB backlog has grown.

One aggravating factor is that all in-person services to the public were removed in 2020, he said.

"The effect of removing all in-person services is that people who are struggling with technology, whose first language isn't English or French, who have disabilities — they can't participate in these hearings and some of them can't even attend these hearings because of the digital divide," Kwan told CBC News.. 

Additionally, Kwan says the fact that it's all remote results in fewer hallway conversations.

"When these hearings were in person, there used to be 45 hearing locations across the province serving rural, remote and urban communities," he said.

"While people were waiting for their hearings, they could talk to the other party in the hallways where mediators will walk up and down and ask, 'Would you like to find a resolution?… Would you like some advice on your hearing?'"

Kwan's group found that roughly one third of those participants in those hallways were able to negotiate settlement.

"That helped remove a significant chunk of applications that were destined to be heard by the adjudicator," he said.

Now that everything is virtual, the work of the adjudicators has been doubled, he added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Desmond Brown

Web Writer / Editor

Desmond Brown is a GTA-based freelance writer and editor. You can reach him at: desmond.brown@cbc.ca.

With files from Derick Deonarain and Lane Harrison