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 (landlord or tenant) 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 is assigned to a residential tenancy officer. Access Nova Scotia includes the residential tenancy officer’s name and contact information on the Notice of Hearing section of your application. The officer oversees mediation and the hearing process.

Mediation

Both parties (landlord and tenant) have the option of mediation. If neither party is 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 in person, during conference calls or during separate phone conversations. The mediator (residential tenancy officer) is a neutral third party in these discussions. The mediator 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’s right or wrong during mediation
  • solve the problem
  • offer legal advice
  • judge guilt or innocence
  • take sides

If mediation isn't successful, the officer will hear the matter and make a decision (Order of the Director).

Hearings

A hearing is scheduled when the Application to Director is filed. If the parties (landlord and tenant) resolve the dispute on their own, mediation takes place or neither party shows for the scheduled hearing time, the hearing doesn’t take place.

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 provide all their evidence to the officer and the other party at least 2 days before 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 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.

The officer maintains 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 respondent attends the hearing but the applicant doesn’t attend or send someone to attend in their place, the residential tenancy officer issues an order dismissing the application for want of prosecution.

If the applicant attends the hearing but the respondent doesn’t, the residential tenancy officer checks 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 in their place, the officer continues with the hearing. The officer hears the evidence presented by the applicant and makes a decision.

If neither party shows up for the hearing, the officer closes the application and doesn’t issue a decision.

Decisions

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

The officer mails the parties (landlord and tenant) the Order of the Director (decision). The parties may also request to pick up the order from Access Nova Scotia.

If the parties disagree with the decision, they can appeal within 10 days of the officer completing and signing the decision (Order of the Director). 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 (decision) be made a court order. The officer endorses the decision (Order of the Director) and sends it to the Small Claims Court. It then becomes an order of the Small Claims Court. A copy of the order is 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’re 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.