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Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board has collapsed, expert says

A backlog of cases at the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board is creating hardship for tens of thousands of Ontarians who are having to wait more than half a year to settle a dispute.

During the pandemic, the province paused evictions and hearings for months at a time, causing stoppages in the board’s work that many now see as the origins of the current delays.

The board says it strives to give a hearing within 25 days, but the latest update from the summer indicates the average wait is now eight months.

Both tenants, who face harassment or problems with the space they rent, and small landlords, who increasingly say they have tenants that take advantage of the delays at the board, have been affected.

Landlord Sian Tuang, who arrived in Canada as a refugee from Myanmar in 2008, said the wait to settle this dispute has been “very stressful.”

“I never expected this,” said Tuang.

Construction site cleaner Tuang took out a loan to cover the $2,600 month mortgage on a house he bought and rented to tenants after they stopped paying rent. (Stu Mills/CBC)

After working and learning building skills, the father of four bought a home in Smiths Falls, Ont., with plans to flip it himself. He then found tenants who could move in in December 2021 and help finish the basement, which was cheaper than other options.

In exchange, he told them they could live in the home for free for the first three months. They have neither finished the work nor paid Tuang any rent, he said, but they continue to live in the home and allegedly told him he can’t do anything to collect the money.

His lack of credit history left him with only high-interest options to pay for the mortgage, which is $2,600 per month, as he waits for a hearing to try to collect rent.

‘I have to support my own family’

The situation is much the same for federal public servant Ali Labano, who rented his home in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven to a family of four in July 2021.

Four months later they said they couldn’t afford the monthly rent of $2,600 so he lowered the rate by $400.

Labano said the family then told him in March there were cockroaches and rats in the home and they had decided not to pay the rent.

At a rental home in Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood, tenants have refused to pay any rent since March. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Behind $17,600 in rent and another $1,500 on the water bill, the family invited Labano to take the matter to the board in a tense confrontation outside the home.

“I’m suffering. I have to support my own family. I’m working day and night shifts, to pay my bills, to pay this house’s bills,” he said.

WATCH | Small landlord in Ottawa says delays have left him ‘suffering’:

Small landlord in Ottawa says delays at Landlord and Tenant Board have left him ‘suffering’

Ali Labano, who rented his Barrhaven home in July 2021, says his tenants are behind more than $17,000 in rent, leaving him dealing with the stress of continuing to pay the bills without that income.

Labano has joined the long list of small landlords seeking a resolution with the board, according to Tony Miller, who founded the Ottawa Small Landlord Association.

The financial consequences are tough on small landlords, he said, since they are powerless with backlogs at the board.

“To be frank, the board has collapsed,” said Miller.

Last week Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MPP Lucille Collard tweeted about the overwhelmed process and said the board needs to be overhauled.

Collard said the board has failed both parties and needs to be overhauled. (Stu Mills/CBC)

“Justice delayed is access denied,” said Collard, adding delays are worsening the current housing crisis.

Collard pointed out the delays negatively affect tenants and landlords, but politicians have been reluctant to weigh on the matter because they’re worried they seem unsympathetic to renters.

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