How are time limits in landlord and tenant law affected by COVID-19?
There are rules about how much time you have to start a case at the (LTB). These time limits are known as limitation periods. For example, you must usually start a case at the LTB within 1 year.
Because of COVID-19, on March 16, 2020, all time limits to start a case in Ontario law stopped running as a result of an emergency government order. This ended on September 14.
This means that the time between March 16 and September 14 will not be counted when deciding if you or someone else is too late to take a legal step.
The emergency order also applied to some procedural steps in an existing case, like filing documents or appealing a decision. And it may apply to other things, such as how long you have to respond to notices from your landlord.
Here are some of the ways this time limit “freeze” can affect tenants.
Tenant applications at the LTB
There's a one-year time limit for most tenant applications to the LTB. This means you normally must apply within one year from the event you're complaining about, or one year from when your landlord was supposed to give or return money to you.
Because of the freeze, you now have more than one year to file if any part of that one-year period fell between March 16, 2020 and September 14, 2020. This will be true if:
- the event you're applying about happened before September 14, 2020 and
- your original deadline for filing was on or after March 16, 2020.
This can be very confusing to figure out. Here are some examples:
- Your is about something that happened on March 16, 2019:
This means your original deadline was March 16, 2020. That was the day the freeze started. So, your new deadline for filing your application is September 14, 2020, the day the freeze ended.
- Your application is about something that happened on March 30, 2019:
This means your original deadline was March 30, 2020. That was 14 days after the start of the freeze, so your new deadline is 14 days after September 14, 2020. Your new deadline for filing your application is September 28, 2020.
- Your application is about something that happened on October 2, 2019:
This means your original deadline was October 2, 2020. That was 200 days after the start of the freeze period, so your new deadline is 200 days after September 14, 2020. Your new deadline for filing your application is April 2, 2021.
- Your application is about something that happened on March 20, 2020:
That date fell during the freeze period. So, the one-year deadline doesn't start counting until the end of the freeze on September 14, 2020. Therefore, your new deadline for filing your application is September 14, 2021.
- Your application is about something that happened on or after September 14, 2020:
The date is after the freeze period ended, so you have the normal one year from the date it happened to file your application.
Some types of eviction notices give you time to correct whatever the says you're doing wrong. For example, a first N5 notice for undue damage, substantial interference with others, or overcrowding gives you 7 days to correct the situation. It's possible your 7-day period could be extended if part of it fell during the freeze, but the law isn't clear about that.
An N4 notice about unpaid rent lets you cancel the notice by paying at any time before your landlord applies to the LTB. It's unlikely that the freeze applies to this, but the law isn't clear.
Appeals, reviews, and set-asides
A landlord or tenant can sometimes take legal steps if they disagree with an order of the LTB. These steps usually have time limits.
For example, a request to review an order must normally be filed within 30 days of the date of the order. A motion to set aside an order where there was no hearing, must be filed within 10 days. And an appeal of an LTB decision to a court must be filed within 30 days.
The time limit freeze can apply to these steps. If part of the time limit period fell during the freeze, those days will not be counted. Here are a couple of examples using the 30-day time limit for requesting a review:
- If the LTB made an order on March 10, 2020, only 6 days had passed when the time limit freeze started on March 16. There were 24 days left in the 30-day period. So the new deadline is 24 days after the freeze ended on September 14. The new deadline is October 8, 2020.
- If the LTB made an order on any date between March 16 and September 14, 2020, the 30-day period only started running when the freeze ended on September 14, 2020. So the deadline is October 14, 2020.
Time limits for landlords
The time limit freeze also gives landlords more time to take legal steps. For example, for most types of eviction notices, landlords normally have 30 days after the on the notice to apply to the LTB to you. But now they may have more than 30 days in some situations.
Note that Form N4, the for non-payment of rent, has no time limit. Landlords can apply to the LTB for an eviction order any time after the date on an N4.