City Hall considers cracking down on problem landlords
City staff were told by a council committee to go back to the drawing board to ensure all rental units in London are maintained in a safe condition.
Members of London ACORN held a rally outside City Hall prior to a meeting of the Community and Protective Services (CAPS) Committee on Tuesday.
The tenants’ advocacy group renewed its call for City Hall to take steps to hold landlords accountable for unsafe living conditions in rental units across the city.
“We (and council) have a lot of common ideas, so we are looking to build a foundation of something to start with. We all agree something needs to be done,” explained Jo-Dee Phoenix of London ACORN.
Last week, civic administration released a report recommending, “no further action is required regarding the licensing of rental units within apartment or townhouse structures.”
Currently, the municipality only licenses houses, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.
A license requires initial building code and fire code inspections plus payment of an annual renewal fee.
The staff report determined annual inspections of all 47,000 rental units in townhouses and apartment buildings would require hiring 37 new municipal law enforcement officers and a similar number of fire prevention officers.
But London ACORN rejects the premise of the report.
“ACORN has never asked for an inspection of every single rental unit in the City of London,” Phoenix told the CAPS Committee.
Rather than have the city inspect all of the rental units in townhouses and apartment buildings each year, London ACORN recommends City Hall follow the lead of Toronto’s RentSafeTO program.
In Toronto, landlords pay $11.24 per rental unit as a registration fee, and $1,917 for an annual audit to ensure that building maintenance standards are met.
Failing to meet those standards could result in financial penalties.
CAPS Committee Chair Jesse Helmer suggests the program could help identify problematic landlords and buildings for investigation and enforcement.
“Register the buildings, and then do audits,” Helmer explains. “Take a look at the common areas (in the building). Are there problems? If so, come back and look a little deeper.”
The committee unanimously recommended directing staff to prepare a new report considering a ‘RentSafeLondon’ program.
Helmer says landlords that let buildings decay contribute to the housing crisis by taking once rentable units out of the market.
“The RentSafeTO program in Toronto is not perfect, but it’s going in the right direction in terms of being proactive.”
Council will consider the committee’s recommendation October 5.