The point of this blog is to describe what the appeal process is like. As you will see from an Order issued by the Property Standards Officer it will contain an issued date as well as a correction date. The correction date is the date by which the Property Owner, or the person to whom the Order is directed, is expected to have complied with the Order. The Order also advises the recipient of the right to appeal the Order to the Property Standards Appeal Committee, normally within 30 days of the date of the Order. There is a fee of $150 to appeal. Once the Appeal request is received the Hearing will be scheduled within 30 days.
What do the Appeal forms look like? As of the date of this blog, there are no formal appeal documents and no written nor formal Rules of Procedure before this committee. A call to the coordinator reveals that a simple letter, addressed to the Secretary of the Committee, which sets out the intention to appeal the Order is sufficient. In my experience it is best to draft a "form like" Notice of Appeal that cites the name of the property owner, the municipal address, the date of the Order, the Correction Date, and the name of the Property Standards Officer. Then in sequentially numbered paragraphs, provide some background on the property, background on the issue, background on how the Order came to be, the attempts to comply with the Order or the attempts to negotiate a resolution with the Property Standards Officer, then the grounds for the appeal, and a final section stating what the desired outcome of the appeal is along with a reference to the evidence to be relied upon at the hearing.
It is helpful to prepare a small book of documents, with sequentially numbered pages, tabbed if necessary, that includes all of the relevant documents (i.e. all of the documents that tell the story of what has happened and show what you want to happen). You should make at least 5 copies of this book and if time allows, file one with the secretary in advance of the hearing (though it will be accepted at hearing).
The hearing is before a committee of three Board Members. The hearings are held in regular meeting rooms, usually at the City Building on Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa. The process is informal although there is a record as the proceedings are recorded. I'm not sure if it is possible to obtain a copy of the record. It should be easy enough to get as the recording is in a digital format with a simple recorder being placed on a desk in the meeting room.
Of the Board Members, one acts as Chair and runs the hearing. Witnesses are sworn on oath. The Property Standards Officer is present to provide clarification and information. Interestingly, the Property Standards Officer begins to act as a bit of an advocate for the Order and it can't be said that the "Order" speaks for itself. The traditional adversarial process is not followed and there is indeed some back and forth. In the Appeals I've witnessed it is not unusual for the appellant and the Property Standards Officer to engage in debate while the Board/Committee kind of watches and occasionally interjects. It is a like a mini-cross examination. From what it appeared to me, so long as the dialogue was respectful and fruitful, the process was quite flexible.
For anyone attending such an appeal, I can say I was taken a bit by surprise as the Property Standards Officer may indeed enter new evidence (pictures, maps, charts, whatever), without notice or advance disclosure. To avoid such surprise I recommend that you contact the Property Standards Officer in advance of the hearing and request a copy of any evidence he/she intends to lead at the Appeal and at the same time make a similar request to the secretary of the Board.
The decision on the Appeal seems to come quickly and the panel deliberates before making an oral decision. Perhaps in more complicated matters they would not make an oral decision but for the most part the panel seems quite efficient in its decision making. A written decision follows in the mail following the appeal.
Michael K. E. Thiele
Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP
310 O'Connor Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1V8