Posted September 6, 2013
What is the Housing Justice Program?
The Housing Justice Program is a program unique to the Ottawa ACORN office. It was founded in 2011 to help tenants in need of assistance file applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Volunteers are generally law students or paralegals who use provincial legislation such as the Residential Tenancy Act and Landlord and Tenant Board guidelines to help collect evidence, compile information, and file your application to get a hearing in front of the Board. All volunteers are supervised by a lawyer. If you wish to be represented by a lawyer or paralegal at the Board Hearing you must retain them separately. A list of lawyers or paralegals affiliated with the Housing Justice Program will be provided to you at your request. The LTB has the power to order your landlord to grant you a rent abatement, give back fees, and do repairs.
Is this program right for me?
If you are a member of ACORN Canada we might be able to assist you if you:
- are a low income tenant
- are in need of assistance with housing issues
- do not qualify for legal aid
- cannot afford a lawyer
- are unable to file an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board yourself
- have had a housing issue arise within the past year
A few examples of issues we deal with are:
- if your landlord is not responding to your requests to have something repaired or dealt with
- if your landlord is harassing you
- if your living conditions are unsafe
- if your landlord has attempted to illegally increase the rent
We do not deal with eviction issues, but we can help refer you to Legal Aid Ontario.
How much does this program cost?
ACORN has an administrative cost recovery fee based on your income level. If you choose to hire or “retain” one of the lawyers or paralegals associated with the Housing Justice Program they will charge a contingency fee of 20% of whatever award you are granted by the Board. If you are not successful then you do not have to pay the lawyer or paralegal. Members will be billed for any additional costs such as colour photocopying, courier, filing fees, etc.
Applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board generally cost $45. This money is collected by the Landlord and Tenant board when the application is filed. This money does not go to ACORN or if applicable the lawyer or paralegal you retain.
What will I win at the Landlord and Tenant Board?
ACORN cannot guarantee that you win anything, but the volunteers, lawyers and paralegals will try their hardest to ensure your application is filed, heard, and you get a fair order by the LTB. The success of your case is based in part on the amount of evidence, the facts, how the landlord responded to the issue, and how you responded to the issue.
What are my responsibilities?
The ACORN member is responsible for meeting with the volunteer and lawyer when necessary, ensuring all of the data and evidence are accurate, that the file is truthful and thorough, and that the fees have been paid to ACORN. The member must also be physically present at the LTB hearing and be prepared to testify and answer questions in front of the board.
What is the timeline of the whole process?
The timing of the file process is difficult to predict. It depends on many things, including actions the Respondent takes, court schedules, and decisions you make. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to nearly a year to prepare and file. After the application is filed, a hearing is scheduled for three weeks after the filing date, but sometimes hearings are delayed and rescheduled for months later. Decisions might also be appealed and new hearings might be ordered.
Most files go through the same basic steps, although not always in the same order. Some files skip some steps, and some steps are repeated many times over.
The steps listed here are the main steps that occur when filing an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board. They will give you a general idea of what to expect.
- Interview with Volunteer
The ACORN member will meet with the volunteer to discuss their issue. With the help of the ACORN member, the volunteer will try to compile a timeline of all the relevant issues. The ACORN member should bring in a copy of the lease, and any evidence of the issue (correspondence with the landlord, photos, bills). The more documentation, the stronger the case! The volunteers and lawyer will assess the strength of your case. If it looks like you have a case, we will move forward.
- Evidence Gathering
The ACORN member will continue gathering photos and documentation, and request the landlord to address any issues that the member has not informed them of before. Ottawa City By-Law will be contacted to view the unit. This step might take a while depending on the particular situation. The lawyer will advise the volunteers to pass on any information about steps the member should take, such as asking the landlord to repair certain things. The advice given is case specific though.
- Filing the application
The volunteers will put together the file for the Landlord and Tenant Board containing:
- 1) Addendum: basically a timeline of all the issues and what has happened, as well as a request for what you want the landlord to do. The volunteer will research relevant issues for the lawyer.
- 2) Evidence: Photos, Correspondence, By-law reports, Health Inspection Reports, etc.
- 3) Application Fee
- 4) The T2 or T6 forms
The lawyer reviews all of this to ensure it makes sense; but it is the ACORN member’s responsibility to ensure the entire package is accurate, thorough, and that nothing is missing.
Once the ACORN member has reviewed the application, the volunteer will file the application at the landlord and tenant board. The administrator at the board will give the volunteer two slips with the date of the hearing. The hearing is usually scheduled for three weeks later. The volunteer must serve the landlord (present the landlord with the application and the slip saying they must come to the Board on the date) and have someone sign the slip. The volunteer will then return to the board with the signed slip within ten days before the hearing.
- Getting Prepared for the hearing
You will have to meet in person with the volunteer and the lawyer to go over hearing preparation. You will get an idea of the questions the other party’s agent will ask you, and of the questions your agent (the lawyer) will be asking you. The volunteer will prepare a package of material similar to the package that was filed. This package will be given to the lawyer who will be your agent at the hearing. This is to ensure the lawyer knows all the details about your file.
On the day of the hearing, you will usually meet early to go over last minute details with the lawyer and volunteer. The lawyer will represent you at the hearing, and the volunteer will be present to assist. You must be present at the hearing and available for cross-examination. This means you must be ready and able for the landlord’s agent to ask you questions at the hearing. This is a crucial part of the process.
The LTB will order the Landlord or you (the tenant) to do certain things after the hearing. This could mean paying fees to the other party, doing repairs, moving out, etc. The order is usually issued to you within a few weeks after the hearing.
Your ACORN volunteer will contact you to ensure the order has been followed. If you or the other party are unsatisfied with the order, you might be appeal to get the LTB to review the order or divisional court to appeal the issue.