Representing Yourself at a Rent Board Hearing
All landlords are free to hire a representative to assist them at the RAP hearing. If you do hire a representative, notify the RAP in advance. Many of the issues raised in RAP petitions are relatively simple and many landlords are capable of representing themselves.
Notice of Hearing
The hearing process begins with a Notice of Hearing that the RAP will mail to the Owner. This Notice will tell you the date, time and place of the hearing. Put this information in your calendar and don’t forget to show up.
The Notice of Hearing orders the parties to produce all proposed tangible evidence, including but not limited to documents and pictures, to the RAP not less than seven days prior to the first hearing date. Read the notice carefully for the actual deadline. Any attempt to present evidence after this deadline will most likely be denied.
Preparing for the Hearing
Gather all of your evidence and mark each page with a number so that you can refer to your evidence by page number. Make at least four copies and deliver one of the copies to the RAP before the hearing.
Your evidence may include rent increase notices, proofs of service, invoices and receipts for repairs, contracts for repairs and improvements and cancelled checks for work done. Photographs of the premises are sometimes helpful. A copy of the rental agreement and any written communications with your tenant about the dispute should be part of your evidence.
Notify your witnesses of the hearing date, time and place as soon as you receive the Notice of Hearing. Review the intended testimony and any documents that they might need to be familiar with.
You and your tenant have the option of mediating your dispute. If the two of you agree to mediate, a special hearing will be conducted.
If you come to an agreement, the mediator will draft up a written agreement that lays out the terms everyone has agreed to and you will each sign. If you are not able to come to an agreement, the issue will be referred back to the RAP to set up a new hearing date.
Conduct of Hearings
Those testifying at the hearing will take an oath. Oral testimony not given under oath is not admissible and only first-hand testimony (information that someone has actual knowledge of themselves) is allowed. You should object to anyone trying to give evidence who has not taken the oath or who does not have first-hand experience. A good example of testimony you should object to would be if the tenant tried to present what their neighbor thought or what a third person believed or stated about a situation.
A RAP Hearing Office (HO) will review all exhibits, listen to the testimony and then make a decision. The evidentiary part of the hearing begins with the HO asking some basic questions to both the tenant and the landlord.
When the HO is done with the preliminary questions, the person who filed the petition will put on their case by presenting witnesses and introducing documents into evidence. Then the HO may ask some questions followed by the other party cross-examination of the witnesses.
The HO has a goal of making a decision within 60 days of the hearing or close of the record, whichever is later. The decision is comprised of written findings of fact based entirely and only of the evidence in the record. The process is designed for landlords and tenants to represent themselves with ease. If you are, for any reason, uncomfortable with the process, there are competent rent board advocates ready to assist you.
© 2017 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information contained in this article is general in nature. For advice on any particular matter, please consult with our attorneys because the facts of your situation may be unique and the law changes from time to time.