Bylaw officers propose new neglected building rules

Ottawa's top bylaw officer says owners of neglected buildings should be forced to pay an annual fee to keep them empty.
Ottawa's top bylaw officer is proposing to make landlords pay to keep buildings empty. 2:03

Ottawa’s by-law officers are sharing their recommendations on how to crack down on crumbling heritage buildings.

Linda Anderson, chief of bylaw and regulatory services, said Monday she wants more tools to crack down on vacant buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

"They are a blight on the neighbourhood, they are creating a lack of safety in the area," she said at the city’s heritage sub-committee meeting.

"I can only guess they are interested in the land value, not the building," said committee member Barry Padolsky. 

"They see the heritage building as being a liability."

Anderson's proposals include an "annual vacancy permit" where landlords would have to pay $2,000-3,000 to keep buildings empty, higher maintenance standards and halting tax breaks for heritage property owners.

She said she also hopes landlords will be forced to keep the heat on in the winter.

State of school brought issue to forefront

The deteriorating state of a former school in the ByWard Market has drawn attention to the number of neglected buildings in some of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods.

However, enforcing any new bylaws would come at a cost – two officers would have to dedicate themselves to this beat.

Heritage sub-committee chair Jan Harder said she hopes that money can come from the proposed permits.

"I don’t want budget to be a reason not to do this," she said.

"We must make sure we’re getting enough money from the properties that are at risk to afford to do it - and do more if necessary."

Ideas go to committee April 18

Heritage Ottawa said owners should have a financial incentive to keep their buildings maintained, not just penalties.

"There's a carrot and a stick thing that ideally would happen," said Leslie Maitland. "Right now we are talking about the stick."

Landlords still have the ability to appeal any new fines or regulations.

The proposals will go before the Community and Protective Services committee on April 18.