Your honor, please kick this guy out!
April 3, 2009 10:04 AM   Subscribe

We're filing a complaint against our landlord in Ontario's Landlord and Tenant Board regarding their maintenance man who is also our downstairs neighbor. Tell me what worked in your successful complaint.

We are located in Toronto.

Our building employs a maintenance man who is also our downstairs neighbor.

Since we moved in over a year ago, he has harassed us.

He frequently pounds violently on his ceiling - our floor - at odd hours.

At first, he claimed he was responding to noise. We carpeted our apartment, walked only in bare feet, and tiptoed.

Still, the violent pounding continues.

He has also appeared outside our door twice - barely dressed - threatening acts of violence against us.

He shouts violent threats and racial slurs at us from his window. He mutters the same at us when we encounter him in the hall.

Now he is going around telling our superintendent and neighbors that we're involved with illegal drugs.

There are definite mental illness issues involved with this neighbor.

Our frequent, well-documented complaints over the course of a year have not resulted in action by our landlords.

Bringing in the police has not deterred our neighbor.

So, we're filing a complaint with the Landlord and Tenant Board.

We're seeking an order forcing our landlord to evict this person and possible rent abatement.

I am not seeking legal advice.

I am seeking anecdotal tales of people's experience with the Board.

    For what relief did you ask? What relief did you receive? What time frame did the whole process take? Were there any unpleasant surprises you think you can help me avoid?

posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do not know the details, but a friend applied for relief from the Board under section 235(1) of the Residential Tenancies Act and were successful (I do not know for certain but I think it was a fine, and the person who harassed them was fired by the landlord although I think this was not mandated by the Board). I remember him being very confused and frustrated while the complaint was being dealt with, but pleased with the result. This is the relevant portion of the statute:
Harassment, interference with reasonable enjoyment

235. (1) Any landlord or superintendent, agent or employee of the landlord who knowingly harasses a tenant or interferes with a tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of a rental unit or the residential complex in which it is located is guilty of an offence. 2006, c. 17, s. 235 (1).
I wish I could offer more details.
posted by onshi at 11:15 AM on April 3, 2009

I'm not sure about this, but I don't think the LTB has jurisdiction to "kick this guy out." It can find him guilty of an offence, but the penalties would be fines and an order to leave you alone for all the good that'll do. As onshi mentioned, this might be sufficient to have him fired and evicted by the landlord.

Also, you won't be saying "Your Honor" as the LTB arbiters are "members" (of the Board). "Sir" or "ma'am" will do fine.

A few things about the Board: before your case is heard you're required to meet with a mediator. These mediators have strong incentives to push a settlement, which is sometimes good for you (they pressure the landlord/super) and sometimes bad for you (they pressure you). Remember that your only obligation for the mediation is to show up -- you don't have to agree to settle or even be reasonable. If you don't want to make an informal agreement (since it sounds as though that would be ineffective), be clear that you're seeking an order from the Board itself and you're not interested in a mediated resolution. (As a procedural note, you may be tempted to tell the member what the maintenance guy says in the mediation meeting. The member can't consider this, so don't try.)

Secondly, since you're in Toronto the Board location will have a duty counsel office. For the love of all that's holy, speak to duty counsel before you do anything. He or she will advise you (for free) on procedure, evidence, what remedies you can request, and what arguments are most likely to succeed. If your case is called before you've had a chance, tell the member that you're waiting to speak to duty counsel before you put on your case. You will almost certainly get some extra time to do this because the applicants who have spoken to duty counsel tend to be much less annoying.

Remember, the merit of your case is not obvious to anyone but you. The member won't know the first thing about either of you, including which of you is the whackjob, so make sure you bring documentation, dates, times, witnesses, etc. Be prepared to offer proof for every allegation you make. Also, don't attempt to be polite when you describe the guy's behaviour. You may feel embarrassed telling the member that you suspect there are mental health issues at play if the maintenance guy is sitting next to you, but you're far better off to tell the Board everything in the plainest terms you can muster.

Be prepared for the landlord to send a lawyer or paralegal. You may not be arguing against the maintenance man himself. If there is a lawyer or paralegal representing him, be prepared for him or her to attempt to intimidate you into an informal settlement. Whatever he or she says ("You have no case because of [some obscure legal rule]. You'd be better off to just sign this before you embarrass yourself."), write it down and then ask duty counsel about it. Don't agree to anything without speaking to duty counsel first.

Even if the LTB gives you everything you ask for, it may come to nothing. This guy doesn't sound amenable to following the rules. I urge you to file a formal complaint with the police if you haven't already. If he's seriously threatened violence he's committed an offence and the police should be charging him.
posted by hayvac at 3:53 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have anything to say about your specific case, but I had to present a case at the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal (is that the same thing as the LTB? not sure) several years ago, and I have some general advice about how to conduct yourself at the hearing.

First off, be very precise, thorough, and businesslike. Make sure you have documentation for everything. There are a lot of these cases that the member has to get through every day, and they don't want to sit around while you try to remember dates, times, specific incidents, etc.

Try not to get emotional. While the emotional aspect of the whole situation is very important to you, what is important in terms of winning the case is the facts.

I would even say that you should write down everything you want to say, in order. If not the specific words, at least make sure to list chronologically all of the incidents that you want to mention.

Also, if you have any documents that you want to show the member, bring extra photocopies so you can give them one and keep one for yourself.

Is there some kind of legal aid or community legal services office you can go to in order to get some advice beforehand? When I had to go to the ORHT I was a student and I qualified for free legal aid, which was very helpful to me.

Good luck! These things can be stressful, but it will be a lot less stressful if you're well-prepared beforehand.
posted by number9dream at 5:20 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, it was about three weeks after the hearing that we heard the member's decision. Some of them are decided on the spot, but for more complicated cases they will often take more time so they can review the facts.
posted by number9dream at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2009

You are not required to go to mediation. It is offered before the board member comes out. If both you and the landlord agree, then you go in with a mediator. If either one or both of you declines, then the board member will hear your case. But please speak with tenant duty counsel as they can be of great assistance.
posted by googlebombed at 8:17 PM on April 3, 2009

@number9dream: The Landlord and Tenant Board is what what the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal was, more or less. They changed it when the new Act was brought in (2006).
posted by onshi at 8:38 PM on April 3, 2009

Talk to a lawyer (or perhaps the police) specifically about getting a restraining order, thus circumventing (a) the local do-nothing police, (b) the landlord, and (c) the housing and rental tribunal?

Multiple threats of violence and racial epithets seem to warrant more of a strong-armed resolution, rather than the namby-pamby resolutions that the housing tribunal will try to provide.

The fact that this guy happens to be your maintenance man seems entirely beside the point.
posted by astrochimp at 4:25 PM on April 4, 2009

(More specifically: think of this as a case where you should go directly to the courts and have this person treated as a random and potentially very dangerous thug. If you get a restraining order, the police will be under far more of an obligation to keep this guy away from you, and the landlord will have no choice but to get a new maintenance man, since this one would no longer be able to come within x metres of you. I say leave both the landlord and the housing tribunal out of it entirely).
posted by astrochimp at 4:30 PM on April 4, 2009

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