Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

MPP urges Ombudsman to investigate online LTB failings

Published on October 7, 2021

TORONTO — Ontario NDP critic for Housing Jessica Bell (University—Rosedale) is urging the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate whether the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) is meeting its duty to provide all Ontarians with access to a fast and fair hearing. 
MPP Bell held a virtual press conference Thursday, joined by Toronto tenant Pin Hsiao, who spoke to his experience facing language and technological barriers in accessing his online eviction hearing.
"Every Ontarian deserves equitable access to a fair hearing, no matter their income, access to technology or their first language," Bell said. "Yet throughout the pandemic, my office has received calls from Ontarians struggling or unable to participate in their online LTB hearing because they aren't fluent in English or French, because they live with disabilities, have difficulty communicating virtually with duty council, or have a poor Internet and phone connection."
With the onset of the pandemic, the LTB moved online, leading to a flood of complaints from tenants and advocates expressing concern about the new format causing additional delays and denying access to justice, particularly for low and moderate-income tenants.

In January 2020, the Ombudsman launched an investigation into delays and backlogs at the LTB, an investigation that is still ongoing. Bell has written to the Ombudsman asking him to expand that investigation to look at whether the tribunal is meeting its duty to ensure everyone gets a fair hearing. She is also asking the Ombudsman to provide recommendations to address these issues, and to publicly release its findings.   
The LTB processes over 80,000 cases a year, 90 per cent of which are filed by landlords filing an eviction, largely for non-payment of rent.
Pin Hsiao, Toronto tenant:
"English is my second language, so it's important for me to have an in-person hearing because I rely on body language to understand what's happening. It is hard for me to follow the online meeting as it is hard to ask for clarification. 
I also deal with technology barriers, such as Internet and Zoom function. Previously, my landlord provided Internet service. A few days before my online eviction hearing on May 25, 2021, my landlord cut the Internet service without any notice. During the stay-at-home order, it was difficult for me to get public WiFi. Therefore, I had to get my own Internet in a short time.
Also, online meeting platforms are hard to navigate, not to mention for self-represented tenants like me. I usually feel a lot of stress during the hearing. It is very hard of navigate all the process on a digital interface."