Bill 184 Changes and Their Negative Effect on Tenants Part Two: Undermining the Ability to Seek Justice
The Impact of Alternative Dispute Processes
If both the landlord and tenant eventually come to an agreement at the Landlord and Tenant Board, the case can continue to be resolved through an alternative dispute process instead of through a hearing or mediation. Adding onto the methods in which both parties can solve these matters has a positive impact, but it’s important before taking any drastic action that both landlord and tenant alike understand their legal rights. It’s important to know that there are certain protections for tenants that can only be given at hearings, and not accessible during mediation. We are still unsure as to whether this new dispute resolution system will assure the same protections as those accessible to tenants at a hearing. At the end of the day, no matter which way you put it, tenants should never feel like they are under any pressure to throw away their rights during a hearing, so it is important people are aware of the rights they may be forfeiting. Oracle Legal Services explains below.
The Rules Before
Before Bill 184 was put into place, most of these issues were solved during hearings where tenants were given ample opportunity to explain their entire situation. The board member assigned would then be obligated to take their issues into consideration before coming to a decision on whether or not they should/would be evicted from their living accommodations.
The Rules Now
Today, Bill 184 gives the Landlord and Tenant board accessibility to use alternative dispute methods in addition to the already known mediations and hearings. Since these new changes are still unclear in how they work and what protections they provide, there is a possibility that they could weaken the tenants’ accessibility to justice and their rights. Studies show that when it comes to legal representation at the Landlord and Tenant Board, tenants hold a measly fraction of 2.6%, while landlords have 79.5%.
Constantly advocating for the use of alternative dispute methods without looking into legal aid services that help out tenants can end up in abuse and misuse of the power given to landlords, and take away any of the power that was previously given to tenants. Without the proper legal representation, it is very common for tenants to be pressured into agreeing to unrealistic agreements. This will in the end, lead them to failure, and all because they were not aware of their rights or the laws associated with these matters.
Difficulty Increases When Wanting to Address Concerns to a Landlord
In order to honour these contracts, both parties have obligations and responsibilities that they must uphold. It is crucial for tenants to have the ability to address issues they have about their landlord, especially due to the power imbalance that is already present and prevalent. It also should be known that landlords must be held accountable if they happen to be in breach of any of their obligations to tenants.
The Rules Before
A tenant had the permission to address their issues with their landlord directly at a hearing of an eviction for non-payment of rent at the board back before the rules changed (if the landlord did not do their responsibilities as stated in the contract). This gave tenants the one up in power, giving them the ability to explain the reason of the eviction and to defend themselves against it.
The Rules Now
The new bill needs tenants to give notice in advance when it comes to any concerns/complaints they want to discuss about their landlord. It must be completed before going to a hearing.
Tenants are told about this change in the Notice of Hearing that they end up getting from the Landlord and Tenant Board. Tenants often find the eviction process difficult to navigate and stressful, so it does not come as a shock that nearly 97% if tenants do not have any representation legally to assist them throughout the entire process.
What Can Tenants Do?
If you feel as though your power as a tenant is being taken away from you, Oracle Legal Services can help. OLS provides people with Landlord and Tenant Legal Services in Toronto (GTA), giving you the opportunity to take your power back and defend your rights/needs for a future agreement. If you want to learn more or would like a free consultation, call us today at 647-872-3484.