Toronto

Delays at Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board prompt ombudsman investigation

Ontario's ombudsman is launching an investigation into delays at the tribunal that rules on disputes between tenants and landlords.

Reporting by CBC News revealed the average wait for eviction hearings has hit record lengths

Tenants and landlords in Ontario are facing growing delays at the provincial tribunal that hears rental disputes. Now the province's ombudsman is going to investigate whether the government is taking adequate steps to address the issue. (CBC)

Ontario's ombudsman is launching an investigation into delays at the tribunal that rules on disputes between tenants and landlords. 

Complaints about long waits for hearings and decisions by the Landlord and Tenant Board have increased over the past year as its case backlogs have worsened. said ombudsman Paul Dubé in a news release announcing the investigation.

CBC News revealed last month that wait times for eviction hearings have stretched to a record lengths.

"What we're seeing in some of these complaints is that delays have a very real human impact," said Dubé in the news release, citing small landlords who rely on rental income or tenants waiting in limbo for repairs. 

The investigation will focus on whether the government is taking adequate steps to address the delays and backlogged cases.

Officials at the Landlord and Tenant Board say a shortage of adjudicators appointed to hear cases is contributing to the delays. Those appointments can only be made by cabinet order, so the Ford government is facing blame over its failure to fill some 20 vacant adjudicator posts. 

Tenants' groups are concerned the government is not appointing adjudicators because longer delays at the tribunal would give it a rationale for streamlining the system, such as making it easier to evict tenants without a hearing.

The most recent figures from Tribunals Ontario show it now takes on average seven weeks to schedule an eviction hearing for non-payment of rent, more than eight weeks for other applications by landlords and nearly nine weeks for applications by tenants.

Wait times vary across the province, with the longest waits in the Toronto area. 

The LTB's own standard is to schedule a first hearing for the most common rent disputes within 25 business days of an application. While the board met that standard in 54 per cent of cases in the 2017-18 fiscal year, that fell to just 35 per cent in 2018-19, according to the most recent annual report for Tribunals Ontario.

Then in the April to June 2019 quarter, the most recent date for which figures are available, the scheduling standard was met in just 24 per cent of cases.

Tribunals Ontario officials say 39 adjudicators are currently appointed to the LTB, but only 28 of them are actively hearing cases. In April 2018, the LTB had 49 adjudicators. People familiar with the board's workings say a full complement would be 55 to 60. 

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