I’m sitting at the Midland Landlord & Tenant Board as I type this. It’s awful and crowded. The tenant is trying to get money off her monthly rent because she says we charge her too much rent. Now there’s all day hearings, and we’re nowhere near getting heard. Hopefully soon.
However, I just got this press release from the Quinte Landlord Association, they set up a table and helped landlords at the Belleville Landlord & Tenant Board. There is some free help for small landlords at the Landlord’s Self Help Center. Unfortunately they have only one office in Toronto and the cover all of Ontario. Fortunately they can help by phone. The landlords we most need are the ones who help provide affordable housing: obviously if they are charging minimum rent they don’t have a large legal budget. These are the landlords most at risk from predatory tenants and the most likely to be renting out their own home. They are the most likely to quit the business after a run in with a problem tenant.
Groundbreaking Pilot Project Brings Greater Fairness to Small Landlords
Belleville, Ontario. January 5, 2017. It’s a small step towards fairness for Ontario small landlords and it’s never been done before. Furthermore, it just might help reduce what’s worrying Ontario’s Housing Minister: landlords leaving the market and worsening the already dire housing shortage. That’s how the Quinte Region Landlords Association refers to its recent pilot project designed to help small unrepresented landlords at the Landlord & Tenant Board (LTB) hearings.
For years small landlords have complained about unfairness at the hearings. A sample of the numerous issues includes;
- – Lengthy delays in obtaining a hearing
- – Applications tossed out because of minor paperwork errors
- – Process delays from tenants raising maintenance issues at the 11th hour
- – Evictions avoided by tenants presenting fake rent payments to the board
- – Tenants in arrears given extra time to move out
- – Inconsistent and flawed rulings. One sore point in particular is the free duty counsel service provided to tenants at the hearings. While taxpayer- funded lawyers help tenants win their cases, no similar assistance is offered to small self-represented landlords. “A large corporate landlord can look after itself” says association President Robert Gentile. “But it’s an entirely different reality for small self-represented landlords who may not be able to afford legal help.” Gentile says the hearing process can be complex and intimidating to small landlords who find themselves drawn into it for the first time. “I regularly meet landlords who are quitting and selling their rental properties because they cannot withstand the crushing regulatory environment” says Gentile.To address this inequity the association launched an innovative pilot project to counter-balance the free tenant lawyers. An information table staffed by volunteers was set up at the hearings during a number of dates in 2016. Small landlords were given free handouts educating them about the process, had their procedural questions answered, were referred to legal counsel, and offered moral support.The association first ran the idea by LTB staff and was advised that their presence was not an issue as long as they were outside of the hearing room. The local hearings are hosted by the Belleville Travelodge and Gentile said the association is appreciative of the hotel’s cooperation. “We thank the hotel for recognizing the importance of landlords participating in the judicial process. Not only did Travelodge General Manager Gary Smith accommodate our request to be on-site, he also provided us with a table, chairs, and an easel for signage.”“The success of this pilot project was beyond our expectations” says Gentile. “Many landlords found it beneficial and thanked us for being there.” One such landlord is Jennifer Handley who later joined the association and volunteered herself. “It was my first time at the hearings and I found the process intimidating. So I was very thankful to see the volunteer landlords and information table. They helped me with my questions and even accompanied me into the hearing room for moral support. Up until that point I felt like I was on my own.”It wasn’t only landlords who had a positive reaction. Gentile says “The board adjudicator came out to greet us on two occasions, welcomed us as part of the process, and invited us to observe the hearings. He also announced our presence to the hearing attendees in his opening remarks along with other support services available for both tenants and landlords.” Gentile said that the adjudicator seemed to recognize the importance of having this service for small unrepresented landlords. “He was surprised and said he’s never seen this done before.”Even the tenant’s duty counsel had some positive feedback. According to Gentile, “one of them commented it was a good idea because they often receive complaints that there is no help for small landlords at the hearings.”
The association’s pilot project concluded at the end of 2016 after hitting a logistical snag with the venue. Gentile says the association expects to have that sorted out soon so they can continue helping small landlords. The association also plans to press the Landlord & Tenant Board to facilitate information tables at all hearing locations across the province. “The LTB pays a lot of rent to the various venues. We feel it should mandate as part of the rental contracts that small landlords be allowed to set up information tables. Given that duty counsel is welcomed and freely walks in and out of the hearing rooms, this is only fair. Plus unlike duty counsel we’re not asking for taxpayer funding – we’re volunteering our own funds and time.”
In the absence of a formal arrangement with the LTB, Gentile encourages all landlord associations to set up similar information tables at their local hearing locations. He suggests a few tips for a successful program:
- – Make arrangements with the hearing venue. Explain what you propose to do and why it’s an important part of the judicial process.
- – Be on-site for only the first hour or so as people are coming in. There is no need to be there all day.
- – Maintain a respectful distance from the hearing room entrance door.
- – Do not solicit association memberships. Focus on providing helpful information.Gentile says this initiative will help support Housing Minister Chris Ballard’s goal of preventing small landlords from leaving the industry because of the onerous rental laws. The Toronto Star recently reported that the Minister is worried about landlords pulling out of the market when rental units are in such short supply. “We need to look at legislation, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Ballard in the Star Dec 1, 2016 article.Associations and landlords seeking more information on how to go about setting up their own information tables can contact the Quinte Region Landlord’s Association at its website
- Media contact: Robert Gentile, President
Quinte Region Landlord’s Association
Good Work QLA