This is an open letter that was sent by President George Brown to Executive Chairperson Sean Weir of Tribunals Ontario in regards to the ongoing issues with the Landlord and Tenant Board. Treasurer Teresa Donnelly of the Law Society of Ontario and Associate Chair Kim Bugby of the Landlord and Tenant Board were CC’d on the letter.
Sent via fax: 416-212-8024
Mr. Sean Weir
655 Bay Street, 14th Floor
Dear Mr Weir:
RE: Landlord and Tenant Board Inaccessible to Ontarians- OPA Calls for Action from Tribunals Ontario
I am writing in my role as the President of the Ontario Paralegal Association, and on behalf of our members, to express the frustration and concerns we have with the inaccessibility of the Landlord and Tenant Board during the “re-opening” phase of operations, post the Covid-19 shutdown.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the system – which was broken before the shutdown – seems to have all but fallen apart since the re-opening on August 1, 2020.
Prior to the March 17, 2020 shutdown due to Covid-19, there were chronic delays and significant backlogs, in large part due to an inadequate number of adjudicators. In some areas of the province there were no adjudicators at all, leaving cases to be heard in other parts of the province. These hurdles made access to justice for both landlords and tenants inconsistent across the province, and unsatisfactory throughout the province.
The shutdown period afforded an opportunity for the Board to focus on reviewing, renewing and reviving its operations. Despite the claim in the notice of re-opening (July 30, 2020) that the Board ” …is strengthening its ability to deliver fair, effective and timely services…” through, among other measures, “recruiting and training adjudicators to resume full service”, all indications are that none of this happened.
Further, and as noted above, service prior to shutdown was inadequate. Re-opening has been plagued by the same old delays. Worse, the unilateral decision by the Board to centralize all contact and submissions through a single fax number has made the current system unworkable. This single fax replaces the more than 20 in use prior to the shutdown, all at a time when there is no option for in-person delivery of submissions. As a result, our members (representing landlords and tenants) or the landlords and tenants themselves, deal with receiving-fax access queues throughout each day. Many of the matters about which they are faxing are time sensitive, with 30- or 60-day timelines for submission of applications. Our members are working tirelessly on behalf of their clients, but it is proving to be impossible to have faxes go through in a timely way. People are spending many days attempting to successfully fax applications to the Board’s single fax number. This is costing Ontarians – landlords, tenants and legal professionals – in time, in money and in many cases in access to the services the Board is mandated to provide, within prescribed time limits.
Alternatives are few, and for the most part, unsatisfactory to provide access to justice for Ontarians who need the adjudication of the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Applications cannot be delivered; mail is an option, but there is no way to establish proof of receipt/on time proof of receipt by the Board; and only four applications (T1, T2, L1, L2) can be submitted online.
Given this unworkable and untenable situation, we must insist that the Board undertake immediately one or both of the following measures to rectify this significant, unfair and growing problem:
– provide immediate access to online submission of all applications to the Board;
– provide immediate access to a fax service that has sufficient capacity to receive inbound submissions without senders encountering a busy signal.
The Ontario Paralegal Association is willing to work cooperatively with the Board to arrive at a workable system during these extraordinary times. To this end, we want to enter into meaningful discussions with you as soon as possible, and definitely before September 8, 2020. Otherwise – and this is the last route we want to take – we will be left with no alternative but to bring an application to the Court outlining the way the Board is failing in its statutory duties. We would much prefer to use our energy and yours to build confidence in the landlord and tenant system in Ontario.
One final and disturbing note. It has come to our attention that at least one union local (OPSEU 5118), has passed a motion whereby members working at the Landlord and Tenant Board will not process applications for eviction, and has encouraged other locals to pass the same motion. Effectively, this renders the Board meaningless. If applications do not reach the Board, it cannot adjudicate them. The action taken by OPSEU fails to consider the circumstances of the many small, independent landlords who have been – and continue to be – put in difficult, and in some cases dire, circumstances. It leaves legal professionals unable to effectively serve their clients. Only a fair and adjudicated hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board can determine how best to resolve disputes that have proven unresolvable via negotiation and mediated discussion.
On behalf of our clients and our members, the Ontario Paralegal Association calls on the Landlord and Tenant Board, and on Tribunals Ontario, to take leadership of this situation and to fulfill their mandated responsibilities. We must insist that this leadership action be taken immediately.
Ontario Paralegal Association
George W. Brown