Three Mistakes Landlords Make

Yesterday I attended the Landlord and Tenant Board to represent a client in a hearing. While I was waiting for my application to be called, another case was heard. An unrepresented landlord brought an application to terminate the tenancy for substantial interference with reasonable enjoyment and the application to terminate the tenancy for the damages made to the rental unit under the Residential Tenancies Act. The landlord also mentioned that she brought another application for non-payment of rent that was scheduled for another date…

The member residing over the hearing started the procedure. I prepared myself  for a long hearing with many aggravating details about the tenant’s conduct. However, I could only speculate what the tenant’s conduct was and what damage he made to the unit. The hearing was over before it started.

Every landlord’s application requires the particular type of a notice to be given to a tenant. The application must be based on that notice. Every notice contains detailed information prescribed by the Residential Tenancies Act. Any deviation from the stipulated format might invalidate the entire application.

In the mentioned case, in the course of dealing with preliminary issues, the tenant’s paralegal invalidated all landlord’s notices for both applications, for one or more of the following reasons:

  •  No date of termination provided in the Notice of Termination;
  • No remedy period given to the tenant;
  • An application was filed before the remedy period expired;
  • The second notice at its face was in fact the first notice for the ground checked;
  • Wrong ground for termination of the tenancy checked;
  • No ground checked;
  • The application based on the invalid notice, while a valid notice was on the Board’s file.

As a result, both applications were dismissed on a preliminary stage, without even getting to the assessment on the merit. For me as an observer, it was really painful to watch the landlord helplessly waving the pile of notices none of which was good enough even to start the hearing. She mentioned that the first notice was given in January, and after all this time and efforts she got nowhere. The landlord started complaining to the member about his ruling, submitted that she could prove her case, and attempted presenting pieces of evidence. She didn’t even understand that her case was over. Instead of leaving the court room with the enforceable order against her tenant, she faced the situation where she needed to start the entire procedure from the very beginning, provided that the tenant does not leave the premises. If he does, he becomes no tenant any longer, and the Board has no jurisdiction over the matter of damages and arrears in rent payment. The landlord will have to file a claim with the Small Claims Court and wait about eight to ten months for the trial…

Why things like these happen?

First, landlords typically neglect to obtain legal advice in the very first stage of selection tenants and entering into a lease agreement. Sometimes they are so eager to rent to the first one who is interested, that they go totally blind about the consequences. This is the first mistake.

Second, when the problem with a tenant arises, landlords tend to economize on the legal protection of their sometimes only valuable asset, their rental property. Instead of investing a few hundred dollars in legal advice and having their papers looked at by a paralegal, landlords try to do things by themselves.  This is the second mistake.

Third, landlords go to the Board unrepresented. It is not a wise decision where tenants most likely will be having a paralegal as a legal representative. In fact, tenants have an opportunity to obtain legal advice or/and legal representation for free or for a very affordable price in many places, from legal clinics to community organizations. Landlords do not have many choices, if any. The tenants are considered to be a more vulnerable party of a lease contract. However, it is very advisable to landlords to hire a paralegal at least for the hearing. In the case above the landlord experienced difficulties while following the conversation between the tenant’s paralegal and the member, especially when it came to the numerous cases presented by the paralegal as precedents. Attempting to represent yourself in the matter related to your very valuable asset where the other party has a representative is the third mistake.

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