Landlords and tenants in Sudbury dealing with costly delays after closure of local office
Social Justice Tribunals Ontario says people can go to Service Ontario to file documents
Those who live in rental accomodations and those who operate them in Sudbury are frustrated with the closure of a local Landlord-Tenant office.
Since the local office closed in the fall of 2018, legal professionals say they're dealing with increased caseloads and everyone is dealing with delays.
"A lot of clients have been calling us up that have filed on their own, and we will take on the matter, but quite frequently we need to start all over, or file the proper applications," said Angie Gravelle, a paralegal in Sudbury who provides legal assistance to landlords.
"It costs $190 to file the application and once they're accepted, of course the people are being charged the $190. But sometimes there's major errors on them or maybe they were the wrong application," she said. "So there's difficulty with that where landlords are making mistakes, it costs them more money in the end if they have to re-file something else."
Landlords and tenants are able to go to Service Ontario to file their documents, however, many believe it's not as helpful as the Landlord-Tenant office was. Clerks at Service Ontario are not able to answer questions or provide advice about housing issues.
"Employees behind the counter were extremely knowledgeable in the process of the Landlord and Tenant Board and they were really a big asset for the community," Gravelle said.
She said Service Ontario doesn't necessarily review the applications to look for errors, they just make sure all the documentation is there.
Since the Landlord-Tenant office closed, tenants don't know where to go for help.
A web-site and an 800 number are both available for tenants who need information, but some say it's not enough.
"There's only kind of a restricted number of things that can be done online and knowing which ones are appropriate to file and how actually to go about the board's procedures is not something that sometimes everybody can navigate," said Jonathon Wong, a lawyer at the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic, which helps low-income tenants.
He says they've also had an increase in clients since the Landlord Tenant office closed.
Wong agrees not having a local Landlord-Tenant office has made things more difficult.
"We have difficulty getting documents without a service counter, you know a front-facing staff person to provide us with those documents," he said. "We have difficulty finding out what the issues are, and going to the Landlord-Tenant Board to be told there are even options."
It's also become costly, especially for landlords.
"Landlords that are already suffering from the loss of the rent and then to have to incur hundreds of dollars on top of that to remove a tenant that's not paying. It's very frustrating to them, and of course, the timeline that it takes. Sometimes it can take up to six months," said Sherry Jordan, the Vice-President of the Greater Sudbury Landlords Association.
She said many landlords are becoming so frustrated that they're considering selling their properties and getting out of renting.
The Social Justice Tribunals Ontario, which oversees the Landlord-Tenant Board, declined a request for an interview.
However, in a statement, it said:
"Clients wishing to file an application in person in Sudbury can do so at the neighbouring Service Ontario counter, located in the same office where the LTB counter operated – 199 Larch Street, Unit 300. LTB staff in the Sudbury office continue to process documents for applications sent by mail or fax."
with files from Angela Gemmill