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I can't afford to hire a lawyer. How can I get help with my tenancy issue?

If you can't afford a lawyer or paralegal for your whole case, a lawyer can still help you understand what the law says about your situation and what your options are.

Some lawyers provide "unbundled" or “limited scope” services. This means they agree to help you with part of your case. For example, they might help you fill out forms and prepare for your hearing, but not represent you at the hearing.

You might also be able to find legal help in other places. Some of these options include:

  • Community Legal Clinics (CLCs): Most CLCs across Ontario give free legal help or advice on tenancy law issues to people who have low incomes.
  • Tenant duty counsel: Tenant duty counsel are lawyers and community legal workers who can help you at most Landlord and Tenant Board locations across the province on the day of your hearing. Usually, if you have a telephone hearing scheduled, you can also reach duty counsel by telephone. Duty counsel can give you advice about your legal rights and responsibilities, and the Board process. They can also help you work out a settlement with your landlord or help you talk to Board mediators.
  • JusticeNet: JusticeNet is a non-profit organization that helps people in Ontario whose income is too high to get legal aid and too low to afford legal fees. They offer services for a fee based on income.
  • If your landlord is discriminating against you, you might be able to get help from the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation or from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.
  • Depending on where you live in Ontario, a community mediation program might help you work out an agreement with your landlord. You can look for mediation services across Ontario at www.211Ontario.ca
  • Depending on where you live in Ontario, you might be able to speak to a Board mediator before your hearing date. You can call the Board to find out if this is possible in your case.
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Get free legal information

It can be useful to get legal information and help before you make decisions or even before you talk to a lawyer.

Telephone information and referrals

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) gives people of all income levels general information and referrals over the telephone. You can get up to 20 minutes of general legal information by calling 1-800-668-8258 from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Contact the Landlord and Tenant Board

The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) has a phone line where you can get general information about the Residential Tenancies Act and about the LTB process.

You can speak to someone Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Outside of those hours, there is an automated phone menu that can give you basic information on some topics.

Toll free: 1-888-332-3234

Toronto area: 416-645-8080

TTY: Call the Bell Relay Service at 1-800-855-0511

Before you call, it's a good idea to check the frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) website. You might find the answer to your question there.

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Contact a community legal clinic

Most community legal clinics (CLCs) across Ontario give free legal help or advice to tenants who have low incomes.

To get legal advice from them, you usually must live in the area the clinic serves and your income and assets must be below a certain level.

If a CLC can't help you, they might be able to refer you to a private lawyer, tenant duty counsel, or other resources that can help you.

To find a CLC in your area, you can search by your postal code.

Some things that CLCs can do include:

  • giving free consultation and information
  • giving information to help you prepare for your case
  • providing a lawyer, community legal worker, or law student, to represent you in dealing with your landlord or at a Board hearing
  • giving referrals to a private lawyer, tenant duty counsel, or community agency

Student Legal Aid Services Society (SLASS)

Seven law schools in Ontario have a legal aid clinic staffed by law students who are supervised by lawyers.

You can find a SLASS at the following locations:

  • Lakehead University (Thunder Bay)
  • Queen's University (Kingston)
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Windsor
  • Western University (London)
  • York University (Toronto)

If you have a low income and live in their service area, or if you are a student, you might be able to get help from one of these clinics.

Contact JusticeNet

JusticeNet is a non-profit organization that helps people in Ontario whose income is too high to get legal aid and too low to afford legal fees.

JusticeNet refers people to lawyers, paralegals, and mediators who provide legal services at lower rates for some clients, depending on income.

JusticeNet's website allows you to search for these professionals by area of law or by location. You can also call 1-866-919-3219 or 416-479-0552 in the Toronto area.

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Reviewed: 
July, 2016