Paralegals an ideal option for landlord-tenant disputes
By Kathy Rumleski, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
“A paralegal could offer different options and levels of service for either tenants or a landlord, says Murray, principal of AJ Murray Legal Services. “As trained legal professionals who are regulated by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), we are licensed to speak at the Landlord and Tenant Board.”
Murray says paralegals are specifically trained to handle tribunal and board matters, as well as small claims court lawsuits.
“These are key areas where paralegals are typically quite adept and ready to provide guidance,” she says.
The Hamilton Spectator reports that the dispute involved post-secondary students who alleged they were "threatened and intimidated" after posting negative reviews about an off-campus landlord and his property and claimed they were told he would reveal their personal information online if they did not remove the "fake" comments.
The allegations included threats of lawsuits and a suggestion from the landlord that he would tell future landlords of one student that she was a terrible tenant, the newspaper reports.
The students also claimed that they had difficulty recovering their security deposits, according to the report.
“This is an issue that could be brought before the Landlord and Tenant Board,” she says.
Murray says if the landlord can prove that what is being alleged is inaccurate, then a paralegal may be able to assist in obtaining a remedy.
“The option in this case for a landlord could possibly be filing a claim through the small claims court ,” she says.
The landlord would need to prove damages consequent to the negative reviews, Murray says.
“If a landlord is going to assert they have suffered a financial loss because of online posts, they need evidence. You must be able to prove your damages,” she says. “A paralegal can provide valuable assistance in putting together all the pieces necessary for a successful case before the Small Claims Court.”
Services from paralegals are often less expensive than lawyers, Murray says, but paralegals have the skills and experience to deal with some of the same housing issues that lawyers handle.
For clients who want to represent themselves, she offers the option of a limited-scope retainer, where she would provide guidance and help with filling out forms correctly, as an example.
“A self-represented person may not be able to afford a paralegal or a lawyer to represent them, or they may feel confident enough to present their case before the board,” Murray says. “A paralegal can still offer guidance to both landlords and tenants to ensure their rights are protected as provided for under the Residential Tenancies Act.
“We have an academic background as well as experience in proper board procedures and rules.”
Murray says understanding these procedures is essential when going before a board.
“The rules for each board and each tribunal tend to vary. Many people don’t realize that — especially those who represent themselves, and having a paralegal can definitely boost your chances for a successful outcome.”