Mediation and hearings: dispute resolution options for landlords and tenants

Options available to landlords and tenants if they can’t resolve a dispute on their own.

If a landlord and tenant can’t resolve a dispute on their own, either party can make an Application to Director to get help from the Residential Tenancies Program. These guidelines include information on the role of residential tenancy officers, mediation, hearings, decisions, and what to do if you disagree with the outcome of a hearing.

The role of residential tenancy officers

Your Application to Director will be assigned to a residential tenancy officer. The officer's name and contact information will be on the application form when it is completed by the staff member. The officer will oversee mediation and/or the hearing process.

Mediation

Both parties have the option of mediation. If either party isn’t interested in mediation, the dispute goes directly to a hearing.

Mediation is a confidential process where the residential tenancy officer acts as a mediator to encourage and help tenants and landlords discuss their problems. The goal of this process is to find possible solutions to those problems.

Mediation can take place at meetings, during conference calls or during separate phone conversations. The officer/mediator is a neutral third party in these discussions. The officer doesn’t take sides or pass judgment, but rather helps tenants and landlords reach their own agreement.

A mediator:

  • focuses on helping the landlord and tenant solve the problem
  • oversees the discussion, identifies common ground and helps the landlord and tenant look at possible solutions
  • makes sure the agreement is allowed under the Residential Tenancies Act
  • keeps discussion going

A mediator doesn't:

  • decide who is right or wrong during mediation
  • solve the problem
  • offer legal advice
  • judge guilt or innocence
  • take sides

If mediation is not successful, the officer will hear the matter and make an Order of the Director (decision).

Hearings

A hearing is scheduled when the application is filed. If the parties resolve the dispute on their own, a mediation has occurred or neither party shows for the scheduled hearing time, a hearing won’t occur.

Both parties have to attend the hearing at the time scheduled on the papers given to the applicant at Access Nova Scotia. Both parties need to present all their evidence to the officer.

The hearing proceeds as follows:

  1. The parties presenting information are sworn in. All testimony is taken under oath, or is affirmed.
  2. The person who filed the application normally presents their evidence first.
  3. The respondent is given the opportunity to ask questions about the applicant's information.
  4. The respondent then presents their evidence.
  5. The applicant is given the opportunity to ask questions about the respondent's information.

Bring any evidence you have with you to the hearing. Evidence can be:

  • copies of leases
  • receipts
  • written estimates
  • statements
  • sworn statements
  • a person or witness giving oral testimony at the hearing
  • photographs and videos that relate to the premises in question

If you’re presenting video evidence, you’re responsible for supplying the equipment needed to view the video.

The officer will maintain control during the proceeding. You need to direct all information and questions to the officer. You can’t speak directly to the other party.

If the applicant doesn’t attend the hearing or send someone to attend for them and the respondent attends the hearing, the residential tenancy officer will issue an order dismissing the application for want of prosecution.

If the applicant attends the hearing but the respondent doesn’t, the residential tenancy officer will check to make sure the respondent has been served with a copy of the Application to Director. If the respondent has been served and doesn’t attend the hearing or have someone attend for them, the officer will continue with the hearing. The officer will hear the evidence presented by the applicant and make a decision.

If neither party shows up for the hearing, the application is closed and no decision will be issued.

Decisions

The residential tenancy officer who hears the Application to Director will prepare an Order of the Director (decision) based on evidence presented at the hearing. The officer completes the Order of the Director within 14 days of the date of the hearing.

The Order of the Director will be mailed to you. You may also request to pick up the order from the Access Centre.

If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal within 10 days of the Order of the Director being completed and signed. The time limit to appeal the decision is 10 days from the signing date so you may want to come in to pick up the decision.

If no appeal is filed within 10 days, either party can request that the Order of the Director be made a court order. The officer will endorse the Order of the Director and send it to the Small Claims Court. It then becomes an order of the Small Claims Court. A copy of the order will be sent by mail from the court to both parties.

If you disagree with the outcome of your hearing

If you disagree with the residential tenancy officer's decision, you can file an appeal to the Small Claims Court. You must file an appeal within 10 days of the signing date on the Order of the Director.

File your appeal in the Small Claims Court that serves your area. You will be required to personally serve the other party, as well as the Director of Residential Tenancies.

For information on the appeals process and filing fees contact the Small Claims Court.