Canada

‘No fairness in this system’: Small landlords seek ways to protect themselves amid Ontario tribunal delays

The tenant in Nazar Ajeely’s one-bedroom unit stopped paying rent, refused to take his calls and gave no explanation. 

The tenant also refused to leave the apartment in Windsor, Ont., Ajeely said, giving him no choice but to go to the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board to seek an eviction order.

But the tribunal is mired in delays and the wait for his hearing went on for 11 months. In the meantime, Ajeely’s tenant racked up more than $14,000 in unpaid rent and left the landlord questioning how this could be occurring.

“I can’t believe this is happening in Canada. There is no fairness in this system and so many people are in severe stress, both financially and mentally, because of it,” Ajeely said.

He said he needed to do something to warn others about what was happening, so he went on TikTok with a message to other landlords and a warning to his tenant.

“Do you know there are websites these days landlords can use to report you to the credit bureau? Plus there are other websites like Openroom.ca and bad tenants list so you’ll be very famous,” he says in the video. 

“Do you think anyone will rent to you after that? Your name will be all over the internet.”

WATCH | A landlord goes on TikTok with a message for others: 

Landlord reads offers from strangers to help with his non-paying tenant

When Ontario small landlord Nazar Ajeely posted about his tenant not paying rent, he received multiple offers from strangers to help him make the tenant leave.

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Some small landlords such as Ajeely say they are taking extra measures to protect themselves and other landlords. Since the start of this year, several initiatives have been launched to try to hold tenants more accountable.

They include the launch of a website, Openroom.ca, which allows landlords and tenants to report public orders from the board to flag problem tenants and landlords and a petition on Change.org calling for the return of automatic eviction for non-payment of rent that has more than 39,000 signatures. Multiple “bad tenant” Facebook pages have also been created, where users are uploading images and information on tenants.

Landlords say the drive behind all of this is the need for an overhaul of the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board.

It’s a situation some say is worsening the housing crisis as some landlords and tenants become increasingly polarized against each other. 

“I’m worried about the Wild West where no one has faith in the Landlord and Tenant Board,” Douglas Kwan, a director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), said. 

“If we had a functioning tribunal that could regulate these issues we wouldn’t be seeing all of this.”

A man wearing and shirt and blazer, and with a solemn look on his face, stands in an office.
Douglas Kwan, a director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said he’s worried about a ‘Wild West’ where no one has faith in the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

The most recent update from the board shows a backlog of more than 53,000 cases. Between 2022 and 2023, there were 37,690 applications to evict tenants for non-payment of rent.

“The government of Ontario must put an end to this misery because landlords can’t suffer forever. It’s not just the landlords but also tenants simultaneously. Both bodies are suffering and struggling because of this delay,” Ajeely said.

“The bank will not wait for me to make my payments. This person living for free has no one who can stop him and he is living for free — why would he bother to pay?”

Ajeely has also hosted three seminars for other small landlords to educate them on what is happening with the Landlord and Tenant Board. 

“I want to protect others from this agony,” he said.

Offers from strangers

Ajeely’s TikTok post received hundreds of comments, but he also received private inbox messages from people offering to help him, sometimes illegally. 

One message read: “I would just wait for him outside until he opens the door and then I’ll change the lock and beat him up and take care of this.”

Ajeely said he would never act illegally towards his tenant, but that the anger among people like himself is growing and the government needs to act.

CBC News reached out to his tenant for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

An aerial shot of a densely developed city skyline filled with tall buildings.
There were 37,690 applications from landlords to the Landlord and Tenant Board between 2022 and 2023 to evict for non-payment of rent, according to LTB data. (CBC)

Concern for tenants

Tenant advocates say they are concerned about the rise of these initiatives and the overall lack of access to justice.

“We also have a housing crisis where it benefits landlords to illegally evict so many tenants in order to capitalize on that demand — and those tenants also aren’t being protected when they have to wait up to two years for a hearing,” Kwan said.

WATCH | Calling for tribunal change: 

Tenant advocate says he’s worried continued delays at Landlord and Tenant Board could make housing crisis worse

Douglas Kwan, a director at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, said Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board needs to go back to in-person service or risk a worsening housing crisis.

According to a report by Ontario’s ombudsman released in May 2023, more than 80 per cent of complaints made to the ombudsman between January 2021 and April 2023 came from landlords. 

However, in terms of wait times, according to the ombudsman’s report, tenants waited on average several more months for a hearing than landlords did.

The ombudsman received more than 4,000 complaints between January 2020 and April 2023 from both landlords and tenants who said they felt “trapped in the queue” and accused the board of “excruciatingly long wait times” that were denying Ontarians access to “swift” justice, the report said.

Kwan also said most tenants don’t put up a fight.

“Many tenants don’t bother filing a complaint when they are being illegally evicted or their unit needs fixing. They often just move,” Kwan said.

“It’s also rare where we see those horror stories of tenants. The vast majority of tenants are law-abiding. They pay their rent on time. They want to make sure that their housing is secure, especially at a time like we have now, which is an affordable housing crisis.”

But for Kevin Costain, the horror story was very real.

Costain was a small landlord with one property in Oshawa, Ont. After his tenant stopped paying, he says it took him 16 months to gain control of his rental property, even after the tenant started a fire inside it.

“It’s this feeling of being held hostage and there is no one who can help.” 

A man wearing casual clothes sits on a stool in the middle of a small kitchen. He is surrounded by boxes of dishes and kitchen utensils that are partially unpacked.
Kevin Costain is a landlord whose tenant set fire to the home. Instead of renting again, he has decided to move back in. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

After filing with the board and discovering the delays, he joined an organization called Small Ownership Landlords of Ontario (SOLO), a group of landlords who came together in 2020 when tribunal delays began to worsen. 

“SOLO is a group trying to help other landlords get help or at least be more aware of what’s happening in this province and I wanted to help with that cause,” Costain said. 

Part of SOLO’s efforts have included striking at the Landlord and Tenant Board and petitioning it to return to in-person hearings. It is also a point of contact for many small landlords to get a better understanding of the system.

Representatives from SOLO say none of their members would endorse or promote illegal activities, but they are hearing about landlords outside their organization who are increasingly taking matters into their own hands, including illegally changing locks and shutting off utilities.

“I don’t agree with anything illegal. But I do think when this is happening, it’s just out of total desperation,” Costain said. 

Costain said his tenant set fire to the house he was renting out in January 2023, causing more than $150,000 worth of damage. Still, it took him until August 2023 to regain possession of the home.

WATCH | Walking though a house damaged in a fire set by a tenant: 

Landlord walks through his fire-damaged unit

Kevin Costain walks through the fire damage to his home, which was caused by a tenant who had stopped paying rent.

“The way things are going in this province, with these delays, tenants know they can get away with whatever they want to and there are no repercussions,” Costain said. 

CBC News reached out to Costain’s tenant but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Worry about ‘copycat landlords’ 

Kwan also worries about “copycat” landlords will also be increasingly breaking the rules.

“As word travels of these delays, I’m worried about more landlords who start to think ‘I’m just going to lock them out. What are you going to do? See you in two years from now.'”

He says the way to fix this is easy. 

WATCH | Landlords opting out of renting properties: 

Are delays worsening the housing supply in Ontario?

Kevin Costain from Small Landlords of Ontario (SOLO) said the delays at the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board are causing small landlords to get out of the business.

“There’s a simple way to fix it that doesn’t cost taxpayers a lot of money. Let’s open up those centres across the province,” Kwan said. 

Kwan and ACTO have joined forces with SOLO in calling for reform of the LTB, starting with, resuming in-person services.

“The access to justice challenges have really only started happening since the pandemic. For over 20 years prior to that, the [board] functioned fairly well, hearing 80,000 applications per year with up to 50 adjudicators,” Kwan said.

The board has more adjudicators than it did in 2020, but still the delays continue. 

“It’s not just delays, it’s access to justice,” Kwan said. 

The black stone façade, sign and glass entry doors for the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board office in Toronto.
Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board is the regulatory body that handles disputes between landlords and tenants and has had long delays for several years. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

The Landlord and Tenant Board has told CBC News it will continue its digital-first approach.

Despite demand for housing, some small landlords — including Costain and Ajeely — say they will never rent again and are leaving units vacant, moving into them or selling altogether.

“I find that very concerning. The government hasn’t invested enough in purpose-built rental housing and that’s why we rely so heavily on these mom-and-pop landlords,” Kwan said. 

According to Statistics Canada, there are nearly one million multiple property owners in Canada. The majority are homeowners with one investment property.

The board told CBC that wait times are improving while it works through the backlog, that it has recently hired 75 new staff members and that landlords who are trying to evict tenants who aren’t paying rent are getting a hearing date within four months.

Ajeely did get a hearing last month — an adjudicator ruled in his favour for an eviction — and on May 2 he was given an eviction order for the tenant to vacate the property.

But still, Ajeely said this will be the last time he is a landlord.

“I would never tell anyone in Ontario to become a landlord. It is just not worth it.” 

WATCH | Small landlords say a broken tribunal is forcing them to find ways to fight back: 

Unpaid rent, arrests, arson: Fed-up landlords fight back

Small Ontario landlords are calling out bad tenants and what they say is a system that allows them to get away with it. CBC’s Ioanna Roumeliotis talks to fed-up property owners who say a broken Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board is pushing them to the edge and forcing them to find new ways to fight back.


Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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