An Ottawa woman who bought a home this April but still can’t move in because a tenant refuses to leave will finally be able to state her case to evict her tenant at an Ontario tribunal.
Elsie Kalu told CBC News in late October that the province and the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) had failed her and her young daughter, who has autism. She said the two may soon become homeless due to months-long delays at the board to schedule her hearing.
Her property in the Ottawa suburb of Orléans came with a tenant and another male occupant, she said, who refuses to leave or pay rent. It’s forcing her to cover more than $5,000 a month in expenses for the home she’s currently renting and the home she bought.
After buying the home, Kalu said she lost her job as a financial adviser after racking up loans and credit debt. She is facing threats of foreclosure and struggling to pay for her daughter’s critical therapy.
Kalu filed two applications with the LTB, which makes decisions on landlord-tenant issues. One is for non-payment of rent and the other is to evict the tenant so she can move into her property.
A lawyer representing the occupants had told CBC that Kalu should go through the LTB “if she believes that she is actually owed rent.”
A week after CBC reported Kalu’s story, she received an approval letter from the LTB granting her an expedited hearing — a request the board had earlier rejected twice.
The hearing is set for Dec. 12.
“I’m going to be hopeful and prayerful, and hope I get my house back,” she said. “I just want … to be able to start rebuilding my life.”
Though she’s received some backlash on social media, Kalu said she’s “very humbled and thankful” for the support she’s received from Ottawans and strangers across Canada.
People have donated close to $20,000 to Kalu through GoFundMe, and several have written letters on her behalf to MPPs, city councillors, the mayor and premier, Ontario’s Attorney General, and the ombudsman, among others.
“I didn’t expect as much feedback. I didn’t expect so much support,” said Kalu. “Some people have contributed way more than I thought was possible.”
Kalu’s request had ‘dramatic flair’: LTB adjudicator
In September, the LTB denied Kalu’s request for an expedited hearing, saying her situation wasn’t urgent enough, according to its prejudice threshold.
A few days after CBC published her story, a different adjudicator sent Kalu another rejection dated Oct. 27, addressing her request for reconsideration.
It took a lot of push.– Pearl Karimalis, Kalu’s paralegal
“The Landlord has restated the request and provided some additional dramatic flair which shall not be referenced here,” wrote Robert Patchett, an LTB vice-chair.
“I am not satisfied that there are substantial changes in circumstances to warrant a reconsideration of this request.”
But four days later, on Oct. 31, the LTB sent Kalu another letter stating it had changed its mind and approved an expedited hearing.
“The request to shorten time for [the non-payment application] was not substantively addressed,” reads the final approval letter, written by vice-chair Ian Speers.
“I am satisfied that the stated facts and financial circumstances support the Landlord’s contention of prejudice were the matter to schedule in the normal course.”
Kalu thinks the “public uproar” may have contributed to her approval.
“I appreciate it … I’m very happy it happened. But it shouldn’t have to go through this extensive begging,” she added.
Family has a long way to go: paralegal
Pearl Karimalis, Kalu’s paralegal, said her client’s journey is far from over.
She said it took her client almost seven months after first applying to the LTB to get approved for a so-called “expedited” hearing.
The LTB has a service standard to schedule hearings within 25 business days, but now says it takes an average of seven to eight months for a normal hearing.
“[Kalu] had a good job, a successful career, and she was brought to her knees. And so, yes, we’re celebrating in a way. She got her hearing — not without a battle,” said Karimalis.
But Karimalis noted it could take several more months to get a decision after the hearing, and to have the sheriff’s office come and enforce an eviction if she is granted one.
Hearings can also be delayed for various reasons, she explained.
“It took a lot of push,” said Karimalis. “But the delays aren’t over.”
As for the LTB vice-chair’s characterization of Kalu’s submissions having “dramatic flair,” Karimalis called the choice of words “disappointing” and inappropriate for people in vulnerable situations. Kalu agreed.
“He could have said the same thing with a more polite warning,” Kalu said.
The Landlord Tenant Board did not respond to CBC’s questions by deadline.
CBC has contacted Michael Thiele, the tenant’s lawyer, for an interview, but he did not respond.
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