As often happens when we only get one side of the story, the remedies suggested in your article about Superior Court Justice Ted Matlow’s rant against residential tenants abusing the right to appeal Landlord and Tenant Board decisions would do more harm than good.
Residential landlords do not need more help to collect rent. The landlord lobby group, the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, tells us in its ironically titled brief, “Justice denied,” that 98.5 per cent of rents from their tenants are paid in full. That’s the kind of collection clout you get when you have the power to deprive people of their homes. It’s a power that must be carefully regulated. The lawyers you interview are full of ideas about how to loosen those regulations without considering the larger impacts.
One lawyer proposes a requirement of leave for all tenant appeals from the Landlord and Tenant Board. This would undoubtedly increase the court’s workload by requiring a motion for every tenant appeal and not just those in which abuse was alleged. But would it not also interfere with judicial supervision of the board’s work and create a procedural hurdle to the protection of the vital interest in maintaining possession of one’s home?
The lawyer also proposes requiring tenants to pay their rent to the board, rather than to the landlord, after a conditional eviction order is made. The process to make these payments is cumbersome as is getting the money out of the board in a timely fashion. So I am not sure this idea would find favour among landlords or tenants. The criminal law already prohibits the swearing and filing of false affidavits. This is the sanction we rely on in litigation to protect the integrity of the court or a tribunal process.
Another lawyer proposes to set up a public registry for residential tenants’ debts. This registry already exists. It’s called the court enforcement office. Any order of the Landlord and Tenant Board for the payment of money can be filed there in the same manner as a court judgment. Prospective landlords have the right, as we all do, to do a sheriff’s search before contracting with a party that seems suspicious. The limits on access to information at the board are the result of a recognition by the information and privacy commissioner of the potential danger in untrammelled access to tenants’ personal information.
Matlow’s call for legislative change must be put in perspective. Using the court’s rules and appeal rights to put off that inevitable day of reckoning when your case will be heard on its merits is not confined to unscrupulous residential tenants. Just ask those women who tried to get pay equity from Bell Canada.
Director of advocacy and legal services,
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario