I Thought the Sheriff (would be here by now)

By Mike Chopowick, October 5, 2015 (@mchopowick)

 

Imagine if you phoned the police for help to enforce the law. Now, imagine if the police said, “We’ll be there in eleven days…maybe longer if we’re busy”.

This is what landlords in Ontario experience when they seek the required services of the Sheriff to enforce simple rent dispute orders with delinquent tenants.

Not many Canadians have dealings with the Sheriff anymore, but in Ontario the Sheriff acts as the enforcement officer for eviction orders issued by the Landlord Tenant Board.

Ontario provincial sheriffs on the job (photo: Windsor Star)
Ontario provincial sheriffs on the job (photo: Windsor Star)

This is lesson #1 for anyone in the rental housing business. When you do have a legal dispute with a tenant, neither the police, government or private security services will help you regain possession over your property. Only a court-appointed Sheriff can assist you.

As a refresher, the rent dispute process in Ontario is badly broken and unfair for landlords. It takes over 90 days to settle a simple rent arrears dispute, when most provinces and states resolve these matters in 20-30 days.

In Ontario, the process is so plagued with delays it’s financially devastating to landlords who have a non-paying tenant, with lost rent and legal costs amounting to an average of $4,400 per dispute.

Rent Dispute Chart_Canada

The worst part of the process is when the tribunal finally, often after 2 to 3 months, issues an eviction order if it finds a tenant breached their obligation to pay rent on time. If the tenant does not vacate the premises as ordered by the Landlord and Tenant Board, the landlord must take the order to the Superior Court of Justice Enforcement Office (Sheriff’s Office) to schedule an eviction.

The landlord will be required to pay a non-refundable fee of $315.00 plus a mileage charge of $0.58 per kilometer for the distance the Sheriff must travel from the courthouse to the eviction address.

Now, with an eviction order in hand, and a large payment to the Sheriff, you’d think the landlord would easily and quickly regain possession of their property. But, this is where the wait begins. After all this, the tenant still has 11-days to pay the rent owed, and void the eviction order. This 11-days is in addition to any time, sometimes weeks, it takes to schedule an appointment with the Sheriff.

This 11-day wait is an arbitrary and bureaucratic decision by the government – there is no legislative requirement for this delay. It essentially amounts to one-third of a month’s lost rent, plus the $315+ fee.

There are other delay provisions that make the rent dispute process work in favour of fraudulent tenants who want to abuse the system:

  • 14-day grace period after the tenant first receives a rent arrears notice
  • 30-days to prepare for a scheduled rent dispute hearing
  • Ability to raise other issues at a hearing and seek an adjournment (another 20 to 30 days)
  • Right to seek a review of a decision, or even an appeal to divisional court (with no obligation to pay any rent during this lengthy appeal process)
Nightmare Tenants Headlines

After this long process, it’s hardly fair to expect a landlord to spend weeks waiting on the Sheriff to enforce a simple non-payment of rent order.

The government could easily make this process more fair and honest by eliminating the 11-day enforcement delay, and allowing landlords to hire private bailiffs or off-duty police officers to carry out enforcement when the Sheriff faces a backlog of appointments (which is sometimes two to four weeks).

Obtaining a tribunal order to end a bad tenancy is just one step in the process for Ontario landlords. If you think the Sheriff will rush over to enforce that order, you better be prepared for a long – and costly – wait.

 


 

For further reading, see:

Justice Denied: Fixing Ontario’s Broken Rent Dispute Process (FRPO, 2011)

“Landlords victimized by rental ruling”, by Alan Shanoff, London Free Press, Saturday, August 11, 2012