Section 184 of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (the RTA) provides that the Statutory Powers Procedure Act applies to all proceedings before the Board; and the authority to adjourn hearings is found in section 21 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act which provides that:
A hearing may be adjourned from time to time by a tribunal of its own motion or where it is shown to the satisfaction of the tribunal that the adjournment is required to permit an adequate hearing to be held.
This guideline identifies situations that may warrant the rescheduling or adjournment of a Board hearing.
For the purposes of the Guideline, rescheduling and adjourning are defined in the following way:
Rescheduling involves staff setting a new date for the hearing in advance of the date originally set for it, usually confirmed by a new Notice of Hearing;
Adjourning involves the Board's decision regarding when the hearing of an application scheduled for a specific day will actually proceed and/or be completed.
Section 183 of the RTA directs the Board to "adopt the most expeditious method of determining the questions arising in a proceeding that affords to all persons directly affected by the proceeding an adequate opportunity to know the issues and to be heard on the matter."
Parties should assume that all of their evidence and submissions will usually be heard on the date stated in the Notice of Hearing. This means that the parties should be prepared to present their evidence, call and question witnesses and make their submissions. The Board's decision will generally be made shortly afterwards.
Parties failing to appear at the hearing specified on the Notice take considerable risks. Section 7 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act provides that a tribunal may proceed with a hearing in the absence of any party. In exceptional circumstances, a Member may exercise the jurisdiction to adjourn a case on the Board's motion in order to determine whether the party who did not appear will do so on a later date. However, parties should not expect such a decision.
Where an applicant fails to appear, the Member will normally proceed with the hearing, which means the applicant's case will be dismissed as abandoned, whether or not the respondent has attended.
Where the respondent fails to appear, the Member will normally proceed with the hearing, and will make a decision based on the evidence adduced in the hearing.
Not preparing for a hearing based on the expectation that it will be postponed, even though the other party prefers to proceed, has substantial risks. If the Member decides to proceed with the hearing on the date set, the evidence presented will be considered, even if additional evidence should rightfully have been presented. Being unprepared strongly increases the risk of failure to prove one's case.
Finally, the only remedies for an incorrect order may be "review of the order" (reconsideration), judicial review or appeal; however, appeal is limited to questions of law, and both appeal and judicial review can be very expensive court procedures. It is highly advisable to deal with the application promptly at the start, rather than count on someone interceding later to reverse an order already issued.
If a party realizes it will be difficult to attend a hearing or that they will not be prepared in time for a hearing, they may seek the rescheduling of the hearing date set out in the Notice of Hearing. They should request rescheduling as soon as possible after they realize it is necessary.
The Board will generally only reschedule a hearing if the party seeking the rescheduling is able to obtain the agreement of the other party or parties (see Rule 21).
If a tenant requests rescheduling, they should deal with the landlord's representative, if there is one, or with the landlord directly. If there are multiple landlords, the agreement of each must be obtained.
When a landlord requests rescheduling, they should deal with the tenant's representative, if one exists, or with the tenant directly. If there is more than one tenant, the agreement of each must be obtained.
It is important that parties bear in mind the Board's obligation to determine matters expeditiously. Parties should respond promptly and reasonably to requests from another party to reschedule, thereby permitting the Board to schedule other matters in that time frame. Although there are always a number of factors to take into account, if parties are unreasonable in their responses to requests to rescheduling, a Member may find that since rescheduling caused no prejudice to either party, the party who refused the request may be ordered to pay costs.
The party seeking the hearing's rescheduling should send or fax to the Board a written request, preferably in the form provided by the Board, for rescheduling indicating:
Where the request to reschedule a hearing that has not previously been adjourned is filed with the Board, the written request must be received by the Board by noon of the day before the hearing and a copy should be sent to the other party(ies), or, their representatives. Board staff will reschedule the hearing and the parties or their representatives will be advised of the rescheduled hearing date by way of a new notice of hearing.
Where a hearing has previously been adjourned and the parties or their representatives want to reschedule the hearing, the parties or their representatives must be aware that the written consent seeking a rescheduling must be filed with the Board at least two full business days before the scheduled hearing date. In deciding whether to reschedule the hearing, a Board Member considering a request for rescheduling may consider one or more of the following factors:
The Board Member may:
If the Member denies the request for rescheduling, the parties must attend on the date fixed for the hearing and may request an adjournment which may be granted or denied. If the request for an adjournment is granted, the Board may impose conditions on the adjournment, including making the return date of the hearing peremptory. In addition, the Board may make an order for costs.
It is the parties' responsibility to ensure that the written request for rescheduling was received by the Board and to determine if the hearing has been rescheduled. If the hearing has been rescheduled by the Board on the basis of the written request, it is the parties' responsibility to determine, even though the Board will issue a new Notice of Hearing, if the request has been granted, and the date, time and place of the rescheduled hearing.
In some cases, exceptional circumstances arise at the last moment (such as the death of a close family member) which prevents the party from meeting the procedures set out above. In such circumstances, the party should notify the Board by telephone as soon as they become aware of this, and inform the other party or their representative, as well. The case will remain on the list of hearings for the scheduled time, but the Member will be apprised of the telephone message and, if satisfied that the circumstances are indeed exceptional, the Member may adjourn the hearing without the party being present.
A party may request that a hearing be rescheduled because they require accommodation in accordance with the Human Rights Code, and the Board is unable to accommodate them at the originally scheduled hearing. Such requests will be addressed by the Board in accordance with the Board's Human Rights Policy.
It may be necessary from time to time for the Board to reschedule a hearing on its own initiative. For example, the Board may determine that it is necessary to reschedule a hearing to a different date in order to ensure that a sign-language interpreter is available, if so required by one of the parties. In such cases, the original hearing will be cancelled and the parties and their representatives will be notified.
The provisions of this Guideline under the subheading "Conditions for an Adjournment" also apply to the rescheduling of hearings.
When a Board Mediator assists the parties in mediation and a partial settlement is reached by the parties, an interim agreement may be signed by the parties. The parties to the interim agreement may agree to reschedule the hearing to a later date for a Member to determine the unresolved issues (see Rule 14).
The Board may impose conditions for rescheduling hearings.
If a party is unable to obtain consent to a rescheduling from the other parties in advance of the hearing date, the party or their agent must attend on the hearing date to request an adjournment from the Member. A request for an adjournment will normally be heard at the outset of the session for which the hearing is scheduled.
An adjournment is a procedural decision. If the request is made at the start of the hearing, and before evidence is heard on the merits of the application, the Member is not "seized" with the case, thus the same Member is not required to conduct the hearing on the adjourned date. However, if the request is made part way through a hearing, the Member will likely be seized with the case because they heard evidence. For instance, an applicant may discover that the respondent's case involves allegations that they did not realize were going to be raised, and that evidence from a witness who is not present is necessary to counter the respondent's defence. In such a situation, the hearing must be adjourned to a time when the same Member can continue the hearing.
Section 183 of the RTA states that proceedings at the Board should be expeditious, but the Board must ensure that the parties are given "an adequate opportunity to know the issues and to be heard on the matter." The key question becomes how to balance the rights of the parties to ensure that matters are resolved quickly while not adversely affecting their rights to a fair hearing. The determining factors a Member will weigh are very different depending on whether the parties agree to adjourn, or one party's request to adjourn is contested by one or more other parties.
If the parties agree to adjourn the hearing, the Board will not interfere with this agreement in most circumstances. The hearing will be adjourned to a date set by the Board, although the parties may have an opportunity to offer some preferred dates.
However, sometimes the Member may decide it would not be in the public interest to proceed as the parties have arranged. Although the Member will not normally direct the parties to a hearing immediately, the parties may be required to proceed on an earlier date than was agreed upon.
Parties are generally required to make themselves available to attend scheduled hearings by making whatever arrangements are necessary. The granting of adjournments is in the discretion of the Member hearing the application. However, if the parties cannot attend the scheduled hearing and are not able to reach an agreement regarding one party's wish to adjourn the hearing, the Member should weigh the prejudice that might be suffered by each party. The Member will consider the prejudice to a party having to appear repeatedly, without a good reason for having to do so. As discussed below, if a Member grants an adjournment, certain conditions may be imposed upon either party in order to alleviate the prejudice the other party may experience as a result of the adjournment.
Therefore, when appearing before the Member the parties should present specific reasons why they would be significantly prejudiced by an adjournment. For example, a delay may economically prejudice a party or may mean a lost opportunity. There may also be aggravating circumstances, such as an urgent need for certain repairs or the continued tenancy will be a threat to other tenants' safety.
The Member is also entitled to consider the conduct of the party opposing the adjournment. For example, if that party is the applicant, and they delayed serving the application until the last day permitted by the Rules, thus giving the respondent the minimum time contemplated, the request is more likely to be granted. Also, if the party opposing the request has shown bad faith or refused to provide information about their case to the respondent which would allow them to prepare quickly for the hearing, this should weigh in favour of an adjournment.
The Member must take into account the public interest in resolving the case as soon as possible. However, the public interest in an expeditious result is greater in some types of applications than in others. A claim for eviction because the tenant threatens the safety of the landlord or other tenants should be dealt with as swiftly as possible, as should a case in which the tenant claims there is ongoing harassment by the landlord or their staff.
Section 10 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act allows parties the right to be represented by a representative at the hearing. However, the right to representation does not automatically guarantee an adjournment. Therefore, the onus is on a party notified of a hearing and wishing to be represented and to make all reasonable efforts to find a lawyer or paralegal able to represent them on the date on their Notice of Hearing. Nevertheless, a short adjournment may be allowed where a representative has been retained, but is unavailable on the date set for the hearing, or where the party can demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to retain a lawyer or paralegal before the hearing but have yet been unable to do so.
A respondent may also request an adjournment because they have filed or will be filing an application against the applicant. This should merit an adjournment only if the respondent's application will affect the outcome of the application being considered.
Some parties seek adjournments on the basis that a Court will rule on a similar issue between other parties in the future. This would generally be an invalid reason for permitting a case to remain undecided for a long period: it would be preferable to proceed with the hearing.
A party sometimes hopes that a case may be settled, and that they need more time to resolve the issues with the other party. Although the Board encourages this, and in many cases offers mediation services, a hearing should not be delayed for this purpose, unless both parties agree.
A respondent may request an adjournment because they may not know the case they must answer. If the respondent demonstrates that the information about the applicant's claims is unclear or not detailed enough to allow them to know what evidence they must present at the hearing, this may justify an adjournment. In deciding whether the claim is sufficiently complete and clear, the Member should evaluate the application, documents filed with it and any information the respondent already had.
A party may request an adjournment to acquire evidence required to prove the facts of the case. It may be a respondent who makes this request because they have received the application too close to the hearing date (though technically "on time" according to the rules for giving applications). Also, any party who has become aware of the other party's intended evidence, and wishes to review or obtain their own evidence to refute their position may request an adjournment.
In an application by a landlord for rent arrears (section 87 of the RTA) or for termination of the tenancy for rent arrears (section 59 of RTA), section 82 permits tenants to raise any issue that could be raised in a tenant application under the RTA. Where the tenant raises issues under section 82 that the landlord could not reasonably have anticipated and cannot address at the hearing with a short recess, the landlord may request an adjournment to another date for the purpose of investigating the tenant's allegations and obtaining relevant evidence.
At the beginning of a hearing a party may request an adjournment to a later date on the ground that they require accommodation under the Human Rights Code, and the Board is unable to accommodate their needs at the hearing. If the Member determines that it is not possible to accommodate the needs of the party at the hearing, an adjournment may be granted. Further information respecting the Board's accommodation practices can be found in the Board's Human Rights Interpretation Guideline.
The Board may impose conditions to granting an adjournment. Examples of some conditions that may be included: