August 10, 2021

Statement of Concern: Access to Justice Threatened at the Landlord and Tenant Board

Tribunal Watch Ontario is deeply concerned about the quality of justice currently being delivered at the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Ongoing delays in the processing of applications, inexperienced adjudicators, as well as hearing-day inefficiencies caused by the LTB’s new digital hearing format, are creating hardship for tenants and landlords across the province.

However, Tribunal Watch’s most pressing concern at this juncture is access to justice for parties before the LTB who lack internet access and/or computer resources and skills. The LTB’s permanent shift to digital hearings means that every year, thousands of parties, particularly low-income tenant households, will lose their right to an in-person hearing and will be unable to participate equally in their eviction hearings before the LTB. Statistics Canada data establishes that 46% of all Ontario tenants live in financially precarious households that spend more than 30% of household income on shelter costs, leaving little room for the purchase of computers or internet service. In practice, the result is that many tenants are only able to access their eviction hearings by telephone, if at all, while the adjudicator and their landlord participate together by videoconference. In addition, tenants are sometimes required to wait on the phone for several hours for their hearings to be convened, with the result that tenants with insufficient data and talk times become disconnected and are evicted without the opportunity to give evidence.

In addition to moving all hearings online with very limited exceptions, Tribunals Ontario closed its 43 regional offices in 2020. These offices housed hearing rooms as well as front line staff who assisted tenants and landlords daily in navigating the LTB application process. Although in 2021, the Tribunals Ontario opened limited-access videoconference terminals in four locations only – Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, and London – this restricted and discretionary access to a computer terminal for a scheduled hearing is an improvement only for parties lucky enough to live close enough to one of those terminals, to have their request granted, and to have sufficient technological skills to manage the electronic interface. Across the province, the public has lost the ability to get in-person assistance from LTB counter staff.

Also of particular concern is the announced introduction this year of a new case management and online dispute resolution system that has been developed to date without meaningful consultation with user communities. The first stage of this roll-out is a new online tool called “Navigate Tribunals Ontario” which can assist parties with internet access and computers to obtain information on the steps in the LTB process and the resources available. However valuable this new resource may be for parties with computers and high-speed band width, it will do nothing to assist low-income and rural users who have no means of accessing the online navigation tool to get the assistance that was formerly available at the front desk of the 43 regional hearing venues.

Finally, the LTB has implemented its new digital hearing model in a way that undercuts the ability of tenants to readily access Legal Aid Ontario’s Tenant Duty Counsel Program (TDCP) under which community clinic lawyers provide free legal advice to tenants facing eviction. By scheduling multiple province-wide hearing blocks to replace regional in-person hearings, the LTB has set up a model that prevents Tenant Duty Counsel lawyers from efficiently connecting to tenants to offer legal services. Lawyers now spend hours on the phone waiting for a tenant in their catchment area to be called up for hearing. At the same time, the LTB has now discontinued its long-standing practice of allowing TDCP lawyers to access a tenant’s tribunal file on the day of the hearing, further undercutting their ability to offer effective representation. The LTB has failed to recognize that access to legal services is a key component of access to justice. Fewer tenants are now able to access legal aid services and it is more difficult for tenant duty counsel to provide effective representation. This has an overall detrimental impact on the quality and efficiency of the administration of justice at the Landlord and Tenant Board.


By moving to digital hearings and online dispute resolution, Tribunals Ontario will save significant financial resources associated with travel costs and regional hearing rooms. It is important that these funds be re-invested to ensure access to justice for parties who do not have the IT resources and skills to participate in a digital hearing. Tribunal Watch calls on the LTB is make the following minimum changes in its policy on hearing formats.

  1. During a trial period of two years, establish that any party has the right to request an in-person hearing and that such requests will be granted in the normal course, absent extenuating circumstances.1
  2. Establish a simple straightforward process for parties to choose an in-person hearing, as opposed to a telephone or videoconference.2


  1. This is the practice of the federal Social Security Tribunal and the Immigration and Refugee Board, Refugee Division, except for current pandemic restrictions. ↩︎
  2. Establish a simple straightforward process for parties to choose an in-person hearing, as opposed to a telephone or videoconference. ↩︎
Topics: Tribunals Ontario