Frequently Asked Questions
Are the Courts still operating?
Some criminal matters, in particular in custody show cause (bail) hearings which where possible are done via video conference are proceeding. Everything else has come to a grinding halt. Civil Court administration is still open but all matters up to the end of May 2020 are adjourned. After that date, Courts may begin to reschedule new dates. Provincial Offences Court is the same and new notices will be sent with new appearance dates. Landlord Tenant Board matters are adjourned the same and as of March 30, 2020, the processing centre is unstaffed. Once staff return, they will begin to process submitted applications in the order received and mail out new notices after the end of May 2020. This is all fluid and depending on how the crisis plays out, these timelines may well be extended.
For the latest news and details, visit the Superior Court Website.
For Landlord Tenant Board and other Tribunals, visit the SJTO Latest News
What About Limitation Periods and Timelines?
The province under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9 created O.Reg 73/20 which states:
1. Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any limitation period shall be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.
2. Any provision of any statute, regulation, rule, by-law or order of the Government of Ontario establishing any period of time within which any step must be taken in any proceeding in Ontario, including any intended proceeding, shall, subject to the discretion of the court, tribunal or other decision-maker responsible for the proceeding, be suspended for the duration of the emergency, and the suspension shall be retroactive to Monday, March 16, 2020.
In a nutshell, this means the clock has stopped effective March 16 and will resume when the regulation is revoked. The Limitations Act is paused, and any required step in a proceeding is paused. The Landlord Tenant Board has published that any step to be taken is paused as of March 16, 2020. If you were required to apply for a hearing or order within 30 Days, that timeline is paused. This does not mean you should sit and rest, it may be a great time to get caught up.
Can I Still File a Claim in Small Claims Court?
Electronic filing is recommended and you can certainly file a claim and follow the rules of service. It is prudent to respect social distancing and perhaps use mail, courier and fax where applicable under Rule 8 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court O.Reg 258/98 .
What About The Landlord Tenant Board?
The Processing Centre is unstaffed effective as of March 30, 2020. When operations resume, they will resume at February 3, 2020 which was the date they were current to. Depending on the length of the pandemic, they may explore teleconference and/or web platform hearings to expedite certain matters. N6 and N7 which is illegal activity and matters seriously impairing safety will be given priority. After that, applications will be processed in the order in which they are received. While there is an issue with the Service Ontario payment platform, once rectified Efiling is accepted as is fax filing. The LTB was operating at a glacial pace before the pandemic, it would be expected that hearings could easily be 8 to 10 months out once operations resume. File your applications as soon as possible and hopefully, you will be in front of the wave of delayed applications.
Is my Tenant Required to Pay Rent?
Nothing under the law states a Tenant is not required to pay rent. Premier Ford and Toronto’s Mayor John Tory have appealed to Landlords to work with Tenants and have stated if a Tenant is choosing between rent or food, choose the food. They also stated if you can afford to pay your rent, you should do so. Reality is, the further behind a Tenant gets, the less likely they will be able to catch up and eventually they will be evicted for non-payment of rent.
What Should I do if my Tenant is Late?
If your Tenant fails to pay rent, you should gather the facts before making a decision about action. You will probably find past performance = future behaviour. If your Tenants have historically paid rent on time, communicated well and acted reasonably, this pattern of behaviour is likely to continue and when the pandemic fades, those Tenants are apt to bring their rent current and remain good Tenants.
Tenants who have a storied history of slow payment, causing issues such as damages and interfering with enjoyment or lawful rights will most likely continue those patterns and refuse to pay rent believing they are somehow entitled to live for free.
The first response should be to ask how the pandemic has impacted the household. If there is no loss of income, there should not be any rent relief. If the Tenant claims they are impacted, then proof should be requested. Being impacted does not mean there will be no income. Some employers are continuing payroll, there are government packages encouraging this. EI benefits have been accelerated and CERB will be available in April. This means the Tenant can pay something eventually. Remind the Tenant that regardless of income, they cannot live rent-free and when the pandemic subsides, they will be required to bring the rent current. The further they fall into arrears, the more difficult it will be to regain a current rent status. Priorities for the tenant should be necessities such as food and medicine followed by rent. There is no justification in keeping all other debts current and falling behind with rent.
- Work out a payment plan with your Tenant.
- Update their situation frequently.
- If the Landlord does not make rent a priority, the Tenant will probably not either.
- Base decisions on facts, not assumptions or baseless Tenant statements.
- Be genuinely empathetic, this is a difficult time for many, Landlords included.
What about Serving an N4?
It is a myth that you cannot serve an N4. It is also a myth that you cannot file an L1 application for eviction. With Tenants that refuse to communicate, refuse to pay rent even though their personal income levels have not been affected or are generally undesirable you can and should follow the process. Doing so early will place your application at the front of a backlog that is sure to swell with the current LTB shutdown. Tenants who take advantage of the current situation are not likely to be treated well by Board Members at their eventual hearing. While it is true that current eviction orders have been stayed, no new orders are being issued and hearings are not currently being scheduled, this will pass and normal operations will resume. Place yourself at the head of the wave of backlogged applications by acting as quickly as possible. Landlords should already know which Tenants will be problematic and take advantage.
If a Tenant is cooperative, their request for rent relief is justified and there are no options you may still consider serving an N4. With the N4, consider including a letter explaining that you are serving the N4 to provide the legal document necessary to apply to a retention program or rent bank. Provide some numbers of local options, a simple internet search will provide options. Expect your Tenant to apply, these programs often pay rent arrears directly to the Landlord. These programs will help bridge the gap between benefits starting and their loss of employment. Explain that as long as the Tenant remains cooperative, communicates well and makes an effort, you will not seek eviction. You do however reserve the right to apply for eviction if communication breaks down and it is clear no effort to pay is being made. This approach may relieve some stress for both the Landlord and Tenant while preserving your rights as a Landlord and offering solutions to the Tenant.
Should I Consider Cash for Keys?
You can always agree to end a tenancy on any timeline for any day of the month. This applies regardless of what your reasons are for wanting to end the tenancy. Every Tenant has an amount of money that will motivate them to agree to move. I add my terms to the N11 or a separate document if more room is required. I usually include a clause that all matters are resolved between Landlord and Tenant to prevent any applications or suits post tenancy. Once an N11 is duly executed, you can file an L3 application with the LTB and they will issue an order without a hearing. This means even before normal operations resume, you may well receive your order. If the Tenant moves, you do not require an order. If you question the intentions of the Tenant, it is a good idea to pay funds directly to a new Landlord equivalent to a maximum of first and last. The amount is dependant on the amount agreed to but it helps ensure the Tenant will vacate as agreed without an order.
In some cases, this may seem like you are rewarding bad behaviour. With the LTB backlogged as it is, it will be difficult and very costly to wait for a hearing. Stop letting emotion makes decisions. Whatever your reasons for evicting a Tenant are, cash is king. You set the rules, you set the timelines. This will lead to expedited evictions, less delay in developing multi-units or bringing family home quicker for Landlord’s own use. It does not matter what the purpose is, do the math, look long term and negotiate. It will save headaches, time and can easily cut your losses by 50 percent or more.
What About my Traffic Tickets and By-Law and other Provincial Offences?
The following was copied from the Ontario Court of Justice website
Notice to Public Regarding Provincial Offences Act Matters
March 23, 2020
All Provincial Offences Act matters (e.g., traffic tickets and offences under provincial legislation) scheduled until May 29, 2020 will be rescheduled. Do not attend court.
All Provincial Offences Act matters scheduled from Monday, March 16, 2020 through to and including Friday, May 29, 2020 will be adjourned and rescheduled to a later date. If you have a matter scheduled during this time, you do not need to attend court. This applies to all POA courts in Ontario.
A notice of your new court date will be sent to you by mail to the address on file with the court. For more information, please contact your local Provincial Offences court.
Contact information for all municipal courts is available here: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses/poa/
The following timelines have been extended:
Sections 5(6), 5.1(2)(b), 5.1(12), 9(1)(a), 11(1), 11(4), 17.1(6.1), 18(1), 18.1(5), 18.2(1), 18.3(1), 19, 66(1), 69(1), 116(2)(a), 116(3) and 135(2) of the Provincial Offences Act, and sections 5(2) and 5(3) of the Rules of the Ontario Court (General Division) and the Ontario Court (Provincial Division) in Appeals Under Section 116 of the Provincial Offences Act, O. Reg. 723/94.