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Ontario’s LTB under fire: Ombudsman’s report exposes deep-rooted failures

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The Ontario Landlord Tenant Board (LTB or Tribunal) has long had a reputation for being unfair and inefficient. Unfortunately, according to a new report from Ontario’s ombudsman, the LTB has gotten worse in many operational and service areas. 

In the middle of a historic rental housing supply shortage, the LTB’s ineffectiveness is hurting tenants and landlords. It’s time for reform to the LTB that focuses on making the Tribunal more fast and fair for consumers.  

The LTB is one of the busiest tribunals in Ontario, receiving over 80,000 applications annually. Applications that get made to the LTB have a big impact on the financial and general well-being of thousands of tenants and landlords every year. The Tribunal is a critical part of Ontario’s rental housing system, protecting both tenants and landlords while keeping cases out of the costly court system. 

 

Ontario ombudsman finds LTB is ‘fundamentally failing’ 

 

In May 2023, the province’s ombudsman released a long-awaited investigation into the Tribunal that detailed a litany of structural, operational, and service-related problems. Specifically, the ombudsman’s report documented that the backlog of cases at the LTB has grown to 38,000, and it is taking an average of seven or eight months — sometimes up to two years — for a hearing to be scheduled. 

So, what’s driving the backlog? Operational incompetence is one of the major reasons. According to its 2021/22 annual report, the Tribunal set a goal of having 80 per cent of eviction applications considered within 25 days. Shockingly, the Tribunal only meets this target for a fast hearing for landlords to evict problem tenants 0.2 per cent of the time, with the average hearing taking almost 75 days just to schedule. That is an abysmal record of service to the Tribunal’s customers.  

The ombudsman’s report provides painful details about tenants and landlords who, because of the significant delays, were forced to deal with harassment, criminal behaviour and financial ruin. In many instances, landlords waited months, sometimes years, for a hearing only to have to restart the application process all over again because of errors in their paperwork. 

While the Tribunal was significantly impacted by the pandemic, as well as delays in filling vacancies on the board, the size and scope of challenges demand larger reforms to ensure a system that’s fast and fair for tenants and landlords. 

More resources are needed to process the historically large backlog

First, the Tribunal needs more resources to process the historically large backlogs. To their credit, the Ford government injected $6.5 million into the LTB to hire 40 new adjudicators and five additional staff earlier this year. Still, more is needed to fix poor operational processes, update technology and support the application backlog. 

 

Make the LTB more independent and accountable

 

Second, the province should reform the bureaucracy that is Tribunals Ontario to make the LTB more independent and accountable. Tribunals Ontario is the government agency that manages 13 adjudicative tribunals, including the Assessment Review Board, the Licence Appeal Tribunal, and the LTB. 

While the LTB accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the annual caseload for Tribunals Ontario, it must share staffing, resources, and board oversight with 12 other bodies. Unfortunately, the LTB is stuck in bureaucratic limbo with fuzzy lines of accountability and poor leadership. Only a more independent and nimble LTB can deliver tailored solutions and better service to tenants and landlords. Like real estate, condominiums and new home building, the LTB should have its own stand-alone agency with a dedicated board, senior leadership, and direct lines of oversight by government and the public. 

 

 Fast-track non-contested matters

 

Finally, the LTB should implement a triage system of managing applications with new processes to fast-track non-contested matters. If, for example, a tenant is not contesting an eviction notice, there is no reason why that application should have to stand in line and wait months for a hearing. This problem disproportionately impacts small mom-and-pop landlords who are dealing with problem tenants. These tenants exploit the system to their advantage and avoid paying rent while the landlord is left in limbo at the LTB. 

 

“Ontario is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis, and we need all hands on deck to help families find safe and affordable homes. The LTB is critical to a well-functioning rental housing market.”

 

Ontario is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis, and we need all hands on deck to help families find safe and affordable homes. The LTB is critical to a well-functioning rental housing market, providing vital services to landlords and tenants. These services are designed, in part, to give investors in rental housing stock the confidence to get more affordable units built in Ontario. Making reforms to the LTB to make it more fast and fair will go a long way to getting more families into homes they can afford.   

 


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