The new online filing system implemented by Ontario’s Landlord Tenant Board still has some kinks to work out.
While LTB’s e-File platform has had a strong start, “the landlords may benefit from it more than the tenants,” says Terry Edgar, executive director of Mississauga Community Legal Services.
One of the hurdles is the $45 online application fee that “poses an issue for low income tenants,” stresses Edgar, adding: “The electronic filing platform does not accommodate fee waivers at the moment.”
Legal clinics, like Edgar’s, that are funded by Legal Aid Ontario provide a range of services to low-income tenants, from filing applications to attending hearings before the board.
According to Edgar, many tenants who use these clinics also don’t have a credit card to pay online.
Despite these obstacles, the new system processed 1,000 applications during its first month in operation. And tenants used e-File twice as often as landlords, as the online service accounted for roughly 30 per cent of all tenant applications compared to just 16 per cent for landlords.
That’s still a far cry, however, from the 80,000 applications LTB receives annually.
The electronic platform, accessible on LTB’s website, currently allows for four types of applications to be filed online: two for landlords and two for tenants. The following claims can be filed online:
- tenant rights;
- maintenance issues
- collections/evictions for non-payment of rent;
- termination of a tenancy
“The benefit of an electronic platform is that it’s a guided process and ensures more accuracy,” says Jordan Donich, the principal at Donich Law Firm in Toronto. “Applicants will likely not make as many mistakes filling the application. This will reduce the likelihood of the board having to fix procedural errors or dismiss applications for missing important information.”
Tenants and landlords tend to hire lawyers for more serious issues and currently not all applications are available on LTB’s platform. Donich says that while the online system may expedite the filing process, it may still not increase overall efficiency. He hopes the use of e-File coupled with LTB’s new pilot, Case Management Hearing, will lead to a more streamlined process.
The CMH pilot is currently running in select locations in the Toronto area. In these regions, a case management hearing takes place before a merits hearing. It allows parties to resolve all or some of their issues mutually or come up with an agreed upon statement of facts that will focus the next stage of hearings.
Tenant and landlord applications can still be filed by mail, fax or in person at any of the LTB offices or at any ServiceOntario locations.