Landlords and tenants in Ontario sharing disputes online as tribunals take longer to address complaints

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Published June 7, 2024 at 11:31 am

Landlord/Tenant Disputes Online 2024

The Greater Toronto Area, and by extension, southern Ontario, remains a battleground for the ongoing conflict between landlords and tenants. Due to the increased cost of living and rising market standards for rental properties, both parties have become increasingly vocal about their rights in online forums. However, is there a risk to either party when they air their dirty laundry on digital platforms?

It takes only a cursory look at Facebook or Reddit to see a trend occurring in Ontario, as upticks in ‘nightmare scenarios’ posted on behalf of either landlords or tenants continue to increase. These posts often surround unresolved issues on a tenant’s behalf and unit damage or lack of payment on a landlord’s. 

While digital theatres offer little in conflict resolution, the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) provides a space where disputes can be reviewed and, hopefully, resolved under Ontario’s Residential Tenancy Act (RTA).

“If either a landlord or tenant believes that the other party has breached their obligations, they may file an application at the LTB. After holding a hearing during which the parties have an opportunity to provide evidence and submissions, an LTB adjudicator will issue a written order containing the LTB’s decision,” an LTB spokesperson told insauga.com via email. 

However, the LTB only functions as a “quasi-judicial tribunal,” meaning no legal advice is given to any parties outside of the purview of the RTA. This means tenants and landlords rely on their separate communities when navigating the minefield of disputes — digital or otherwise. 

While corporate landlord entities have dedicated legal teams, independent landlords rely on groups like Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario (SOLO). This group was not only built on the grounds of communal support but also to assist in managing the red tape of the LTB. 

“Say you do some research to evict a person for non-payment, by the time you have done all of that, it has probably been two months. Then you put forth your application to the LTB, the wait time is coming down a little bit right now but it’s still six months to get a hearing,” Boubacar Bah, founder of SOLO told insuaga.com. 

Bah went on to detail scenarios in which dealing with the LTB can prove more as a hindrance than anything else, as in Ontario’s case, there are almost always more hoops to jump through during the waiting process. 

“In Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec — which is very tenant friendly — issues surrounding non-payment get resolved in roughly two months. It’s only in Ontario where this sort of wait time can happen,” says Bah. 

However, in the event of a bureaucratic stalemate between landlord and tenant, SOLO has independent forums where landlords can air their grievances. According to Bah, members of SOLO are often advised to keep conflicts internal. 

“We have a private discussion group where people often air their opinions… We give and take all kinds of advice but at the end of the day, [landlords] decide what to do,” says Bah. 

However, one Reddit user who identified as an independent landlord was not shy about sharing their feelings about how they feel they are being treated by both tenants in Ontario and the LTB, outside of private forums.

“The ‘landlord and tenant board”‘ is a complete joke. They are absolutely useless in protecting landlords against a**hole tenants, eg nonpaying or destructive ones. I’ve personally already gone through two nonpaying tenants (one of them destructive) and the board did absolutely NOTHING to protect my rights. I didn’t get a CENT back from these tenants or any compensation whatsoever for the damages,” read the Reddit post.

As digital skirmishes remain commonplace, renters have their own communal stronghold in the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO). This advisory clinic is purpose-built to help tenants maneuver their legal rights when dealing with property disputes. Similar to SOLO, ACTO’s stance on digital scraps between landlords and tenants is that they should — ideally — be avoided. 

“I think just like other topics on social media, the landlord-tenant relationship can be overheated when it moves to those platforms. When there’s already friction between two parties, that behaviour isn’t helpful when trying to mend that relationship. Because, whether you are talking about a one-year lease or something longer, it’s still a relationship between two parties… They’re bound together, for better or worse,” Douglas Kwan, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services at ACTO, told insauga.com.

Even with the mutual hope for non-aggression between landlords and tenants online, some individuals feel they don’t have a choice, as one Reddit user identifying as a tenant detailed a non-sanctioned eviction online.

The post from earlier this year reads, “My landlord issued an N12… I told her to go to LTB as this was a bad-faith eviction. She claims her daughter is moving in. Her daughter currently rents the upstairs apartment … I spoke with legal aid. I’m aware everything she’s doing is illegal. But, I’m an anxious person and honestly living with her as a landlord has been my only real source of stress over the past 3 years.”

According to Kwan, filing an N12 form is a common catalyst for bad-faith evictions by small landlords, as it requires a tenant to leave in favour of a family member on the landlord’s side taking over the unit. Additionally, it also functions as a way to remove a tenant in preference to a new one, as there is no burden of proof required for the pending family member.

Beyond the wear and tear, inflammatory comments can do to a landlord-tenant relationship, when both parties engage in an LTB tribunal or enter a courtroom, according to Kwan, these comments can carry significantly more weight than just hurt feelings. 

“Comments that have been made outside of the courtroom would certainly influence what is happening inside of the courtroom. However, beyond that, it can certainly influence public opinion and what happens in the proceedings,” says Kwan. 

Much like their counterpart, ACTO’s clients are subject to the slow churn of the LTB. However, beyond the leisurely pace of tribunal deliberations, tenants in Ontario are cornered by a system that isolates them from the help they require. Kwan noted a growing inequity towards tenants, as while landlords may be forced to wait six months, investigations from the provincial ombudsman revealed that tenants could be stranded for up to two years. 

According to Kwan, this bureaucratic tug-of-war may be one of the key reasons why landlords and tenants air their frustrations to anyone who will listen in online forums. 

“I think there’s just an over sense that if the body that is supposed to remind parties of their rights and responsibilities is not functioning for the people it is supposed to help, the more people are likely to find other avenues to express their frustration and find other solutions,” says Kwan. 

When asked if online grievances impact LTB conduct, representatives from the organization responded to insauga.com via email. They stated, “The LTB cannot comment on whether any specific alleged conduct is contrary to the RTA.” 

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