Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Regulating Rental Housing

Would it be a good idea for municipalities to establish “landlord registries.”

On June 1 Hamilton city staff are beginning consultation to assist in developing recommendations and an overview so that “City Council can make an informed decision on if or how rental housing should be regulated.”

Why this Review could make a Difference to Tenants

Since 2007 Ontario municipalities have had the ability to enhance existing licensing. Some municipalities are starting to take advantage of this new power in order to address health, safety, and property maintenance issues faced by tenants.
Typically, such a registry would require landlords to obtain a license and maintain their rental property and building in good condition.

New By-Law in London

Earlier this year London Ontario put in place an enforcement program focussing on addressing substandard housing conditions in areas of the city known for deficient housing conditions. A plan to cover the whole city is in the works.

Considerable opposition to the London initiative came from property mangers and landlords. They argued that the regulation was another tax; municipalities already have the tools to inspect buildings; and that the cost of licensing fees will be passed down to the tenant.

Other Places, Other Approaches

Other cities like Ottawa are moving ahead with the backing of tenants’ groups. Oshawa was the first out of the starting blocks, however, it designed its registry to cover a particular section of the city where students are housed. This presents human rights issues.

Toronto has gone in a different direction. Last year the Centre of the Universe launched a Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit and enforcement program that will provide inspection and enforcement action on at least 176 of the City's rental buildings in the first year of a pilot project. Toronto is doing this audit with existing resources. A fee of $60 per hour will be charged to the building for each visit after the second inspection until an order is completed to meet bylaw or provincial requirements

There are different approaches possible. It’s important, though, that as municipalities begin to look at developing these polices tenant voices are heard.

You can be sure that landlords will represent their interests.

(This is an edited version of an article that appeared earlier on the Hamilton Spectator's Poverty blog - No Excuses)

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