How are time limits in a case affected by COVID-19?
There are rules about how much time you have to:
- start a legal case, or
- take steps in an existing case.
Because of COVID-19, on March 16, 2020, some time limits in Ontario law stopped running as a result of an emergency government order. This order ended on September 14.
This order applied to all time limits to start a legal case, which are also known as limitation periods. For example, you must usually start a case:
- in Small Claims Court within 2 years
- at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario within 1 year
- at the Landlord and Tenant Board within 1 year
If you have a case that’s already started, the emergency order also applied to some procedural steps like filing documents or appealing a decision.
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 start a case or to take some legal steps.
Here is how this time limit “freeze” can affect the time you have to start a case.
One-year time limit
There’s a one-year time limit for most applications to the Human Rights Tribunal and tenant applications to the Landlord and Tenant Board. This means you normally must apply within one year from the event you’re complaining about. For example, one year from when your landlord was supposed to give or return money to you, or when you were discriminated against at work.
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 application is about something that happened on March 16, 2019:
This means your original deadline was March 16, 2020. That was the day the freeze period 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 March 20, 2020:
That date fell during the freeze period. So, the one-year deadline doesn’t start being counted until the end of the freeze on September 14, 2020. 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.