You may want to submit a RECO complaint against your real estate agent. You might be an employer who has received a complaint regarding an employee to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. You might be a home owner who is supporting, or challenging, a bylaw variance at your municipal committee of adjustments. In all of these and countless other situations, you are required to seek a resolution of your matter through administrative decision makers.

What Are Administrative Decision Makers?

Administrative decision makers are people who have been delegated the authority by government to make decisions on issues defined by their enabling statute. This might be an individual, such as a municipal building inspector, who can decide whether your building meets the standards in the required building code. This could also be an administrative tribunal with one or multiple members, who collectively decide the outcome of your issue after a hearing; such as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Administrative decision makers usually form part of government that you interact with most and can significantly impact your life or business.

What Powers do Administrative Decision Makers Have?

Administrative decision makers derive their powers from their enabling statute. Their powers are explicitly defined and they usually may not deviate from those powers. The decisions made by administrative decision makers are binding. However, often decisions can be appealed to other administrative decision makers or the court.


Unlike the court, administrative decision makers each have their own unique processes for reaching decisions. These processes are defined either in their enabling statute, or by the practices adopted by the decision makers themselves. For example, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal might only provide you with the chance to present your case in writing, whereas your municipal Committee of Adjustments might provide you with a hearing to present your case. The process followed depends on each specific administrative decision maker and the issues in dispute in each specific situation.

In all administrative decision-making processes, the decision makers must provide all parties involved with procedural fairness, which is the right to fairly present your case. What constitutes procedural fairness is also dependent on each specific situation facing the parties.

Appealing Administrative Decisions

Like disputes in the court system, administrative decisions can be appealed. Many enabling statues provide for an appeal process within the administrative decision-making regime. For example, the decision made by a municipal employee to grant a bylaw variance might be appealed to the municipality's committee of adjustments.

Once you have exhausted your statutory appeals, you may be able to appeal a decision to the courts. The appeal of an administrative decision to the court is usually called "judicial review". Often you are required to obtain permission from the court to pursue judicial review of the administrative decision. The Court will also provide the administrative decision maker with deference, which means that the Court will not lightly interfere with the decision. Further, the Court can only substitute their decision for that of the administrative decision maker in clearly defined circumstances.


Dealing with an administrative decision maker can be challenging. They often have unique and confusing processes. They can make binding decisions and those decisions cannot easily be successfully appealed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.