A Tale of Two Crises: The OBA’s response to tenants facing eviction during the pandemic

  • March 04, 2021
  • Katy Commisso

The OBA supports access to justice initiatives and knows that lawyers want to give back to their communities – now more than ever. Ontario is facing a public health crisis and an affordable housing crisis – the combination of which has created unprecedented challenges for Ontario tenants. At a time when Ontarians are being directed to stay home, straightforward access to summary advice on the legal options which may be available to keep that home is vital.   

Eviction Help: the Tenant-Lawyer Connection Portal” (“TLCP”) is a new and timely example of how the OBA supports its members by connecting them directly with those in need in the communities they serve. TLCP introduces tenants who are facing eviction for non-payment of rent and who have scheduled hearings before the Landlord Tenant Board (“LTB”) to volunteer OBA members across Ontario. TLCP provides tenants who qualify with 30 minutes of free legal advice about their unique situations in a virtual space coordinated with the support of the OBA.

The TLCP remains an essential initiative despite the Emergency Order passed by the Ontario Government in January 2021 which prevents enforcement of eviction orders for the time being. The Emergency Order does not halt new or ongoing LTB hearings from proceeding and eviction orders being granted by the LTB. Eviction orders simply cannot be enforced at this time. Therefore, tenants continue to require effective legal advice in preparation for their hearings, particularly tenants who face barriers in meaningfully participating in an online hearing because of access to technology and/or disability.

The initiative has been fearlessly led by the current chair of the OBA’s Pro Bono Subcommittee, Doug Ferguson, who had this to say of the TLCP:

Access to justice is one of the foundations of our democracy. In these uncertain times, justice is more important than ever. Facing eviction during a pandemic, especially for families with children, is unimaginable. We all need to step up and offer a hand for justice. Our communities will be a better place if we do.

OBA members who volunteer through the TLCP receive free access to a one-hour CPD program titled A Legal Primer on Tenant Evictions in 2020-2021, along with links to complementary materials and resources.

To participate in this initiative, you must be a member in good standing with the Law Society of Ontario and be insured through your own firm, PC, partnership, LLP or other practice.  In order to serve clients directly as part this initiative, lawyers must be insured through their existing LawPro and/or other E&O coverage related to their practice and will not be insured through either the OBA or the ACTO. The TLCP is delivered under the auspices of the ACTO.  Volunteer OBA members will qualify for the exemption for short-term legal services outlined in the Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

About the author

Katy Commisso is regional director for the northwest on the OBA Board of Directors and a member of the OBA’s Pro Bono Committee.