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Thunder Bay woman, out $1,000s, files complaint over Landlord Tenant Board delays

A Thunder Bay, Ont. woman has filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsman over delays at the Landlord Tenant Board that she said cost her thousands of dollars and caused her to fear for her safety.

Louise McKissick said she was stuck for months with a tenant who had stopped paying rent, was violating the no smoking clause in the lease agreement, and associating with individuals who were engaging in inappropriate and threatening behaviour toward McKissick.

Despite filing an eviction notice in June, McKissick said she has still not received a notice of hearing and has only been able to reclaim her suite because the tenants voluntarily moved out in early December.

She is one of numerous landlords across the province who have been protesting the lengthy delays at the Landlord Tenant Board, which they say were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the province’s decision to place a moratorium on eviction proceedings for more than four months. Advocates for tenants, meanwhile, have also complained about the delays and about what they call procedural barriers to justice for low-income tenants due to the shift to virtual hearings.

“Not having hearings for seven months, eight months, nine months, 10 months  – whatever the delay is now – is of no benefit to tenants or to landlords,” McKissick said. “If hearings would be held by the Landlord Tenant Board in a speedy, efficient manner, then I have no problems with the laws as they are, but it’s just completely unfair to put things off for so long.”

A model tenant at first

McKissick’s tenant was a model tenant for the first few years of the tenancy, she said.

But then, a little over a year ago, McKissick said she started noticing cannabis smoke coming from the suite, in violation of the no smoking clause in the lease; McKissick, who lived downstairs from the tenant in the legal, non-conforming duplex, has a respiratory condition.

Rent also started arriving late, McKissick said.

Then, in the spring, it appeared that another individual had begun living in the suite with the tenant.

“There were individuals coming in at all hours of the day and night, staying for 15, 20, 45 minutes, and then leaving again,” she said.

McKissick, who lives alone, said she grew concerned that the visits may be associated with drug activity and purchased a $2,000 security system that included a video camera and video doorbell – both of which greatly reduced the traffic around the house, she said.

Threatening gestures alleged

She attempted to work with the tenant in a supportive way about the other concerns, she said, but when that failed, she issued an eviction notice June 1 and applied for a hearing June 2.

It was then that things escalated, she said.

The individual who appeared to have been living with the tenant began making obscene and threatening gestures at McKissick’s video doorbell, she said.

“The scariest part was close to the end,” she said. “He was just out of the blue… walking down the stairs, and he turned around and swore at me through the video doorbell and again gave me the obscene gesture. And then 45 minutes [later] came back, and at that point, rang the doorbell to get my attention, made a gesture like he was putting his hand over the camera — like, almost like going to my throat is sort of what it felt like — and then saying, ‘It’s going down,’ and then making his finger into the shape of a gun and pulling the trigger.”

McKissick called police but was told there was little they could do because the threat was too vague to justify a criminal charge, she said.

Tenants moved out

A spokesperson for the Thunder Bay Police Service confirmed that it investigated McKissick’s complaint and issued a warning to the individual. A criminal charge of uttering threats requires that the threat is specific, and there is a reasonable belief that the accused is capable of carrying out their threat, the spokesperson said. If either of those requirements is in doubt, an officer may opt to issue a warning to the party instead.

McKissick’s tenant moved out of their own volition in December.

“The last few nights is the first time that I’ve been able to have a really good night’s sleep,” she said. “At one point, I was seriously considering leaving and renting a unit temporarily just so I could really feel safe and get a good night’s sleep.”

McKissick, who said she does not intend to rent her unit out again, estimates that the experience cost her at least $9,000 in lost rent, legal fees and security costs.

“Thunder Bay is full of a lot of small units,” she said. “Most of us, you know, the tenants are helping us pay our mortgage, making ends meet… We’re in no position where we can subsidize rent during COVID or at any other time.”

Tribunals Ontario responds

The Landlord Tenant Board had 40 full-time and 37 part-time adjudicators as of Nov. 13, 2020, a spokesperson for Tribunals Ontario told CBC in an email, the highest number of adjudicators ever appointed to the LTB.

Meanwhile, it said, hearings between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30 are down from 26,846 in 2019 to 14,500 in 2020.

Asked by CBC when it anticipated clearing the backlog of hearings, Tribunals Ontario took two days to respond and provided a lengthy description of its procedures but did not answer the question.

“The LTB understands the impact that service delays have had on personal lives and businesses,” the spokesperson said. “As the LTB works toward a full resumption of services, the LTB has been working with its stakeholders on ways to refine the scheduling strategy.”

It is now scheduling hearings by filing date and application type rather than by region, it said. 

It has also been helping landlords and tenants quickly resolve non-complex matters by developing and implementing an advance resolution request process.

And, it said, it has a form that allows parties to request to expedite or delay a hearing under specific circumstances.

 

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