August 23, 2013
An Ontario Landlord Goes To Small Claims Courts and Wins Against a Bad Tenant
When a tenant moves out they have up to one year to file a complaint against their former landlord at the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB).
Do Ontario landlords have the same rights? No.
In fact Ontario landlords have few rights under the current Residential Tenancies Act after the Ontario Liberals amended it in 2007.
Once tenants move out landlords cannot file against their former tenants at the LTB. Your only choice is to go to Ontario Small Claims Court.
Many landlords ask “I have to go to court?”
They say “I’ve never been to court before! I always follow the law!”
Yes, it can be intimidating. Not only do you have to find your ex-tenants to serve them, many small law-abiding landlords have never even visited their regional court house before and find the whole idea of ‘suing’ a former tenant to be time-consuming and downright scary.
Fortunately thanks to the Ontario Landlords Association‘s fight for landlord networking, education for landlords, and a demand for transparency and demystification of the various processes, landlords can learn the system and then use the system to get justice.
Here is an OLA Member who after serving his ex-tenant explains what it’s like for the next step, the Settlement Conference.
You Successfully Served Your Ex-Tenants. What’s Next?
Just had my Settlement conference with an ex-tenant. For those who haven’t been through the ol’ small claims process here’s what happened and what it’s like. If this helps even one person here collect what they are owed I’ll be happy.
What’s the Background Story to This?
Ex-tenant broke the lease and left a mess and his ‘repairs’ where not up to my standards. What personally irked me is leaving a refrigerator full of old pizza, old container full of food and lots of sauce all over it. The oven, full of grease. These things are just rude because he and his sons could have easily at least put in an effort.
How Did You Serve the Ex-Tenant?
It took a few weeks for service. I went to his his company. Personal service. Can’t challenge it.
After Serving What Was the Next Step?
In Small Claims once you start the process both sides get called for a Settlement Conference before a real judge.
What Are the Differences Between “Mediation” At the Landlord and Tenant Board?
Unlike ‘mediation‘ at the Landlord and Tenant Board, the judge isn’t there to push you to “give the poor tenant a break” or create “a payment plan” (that often ends up as a non-payment plan) and you are allowed to speak candidly without being accused of “harassing your victim”. It’s perfectly acceptable to let loose what you really feel as long as you don’t make threats or use the worst foul language.
The judge has read the case and lets you and the defendant speak directly.
I made it very clear that I wasn’t happy with what happened. He said he tried to repair things, tried to clean up. I said “reality is reality” and “we are going to trial and you are going to pay me what you owe me.”
He directed the next comments to the judge. “I was having financial difficulties. I can’t pay what you want. I tried my best to leave the place in good condition…”
How Did the Judge React?
The judge gave his perspective on things. He told us the rules for giving notice are clear and the defendant didn’t do it. He said the clean up and repairs were clear in the pictures I took. He strongly suggested the defendant try to work something out with me. Ex-tenant wasn’t happy to hear this.
What Happened Next?
We went over the list of what he owes and he was very willing to go over it and started agreeing with the expenses.
-Carpet cleaning. Ok
-One month rent (as I re-rented after a month of cleaning/repairs). Ok
-The list went on……Ok.
I agreed that a few things could come off my list if we worked it out here and now. In return I want checks coming in starting September 1st.
What Happened Next?
The judge let us go back and forth and we agreed. All my main expenses would be covered. A few beautification expenses I dropped. Still about 90% of what I wanted.
I also said I want the cheques to be $300/month or we go to trial and I’ll win and garnish him at work.
He agreed, the judge wrote up the order and said he thought it was a good settlement. The debt will be paid off in a year and if he doesn’t pay I’ll call a motion and drag his butt back to court.
What Does This All Mean For Me?
After your tenants move out landlords have two choices: either ‘eat the costs’ or go to Ontario Small Claims court.
As the above OLA member describes Small Claims Court doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating.
We encourage small landlords to never ‘eat the costs’ and make sure you defend your rights and pursue ex-tenants who owe you money.
To Discuss This And Other Ontario Landlord and Tenant Issues Go To the Free Ontario Landlord Forum