Kitchener-Waterloo

Students call on City of Waterloo to take stronger role in enforcing rental standards

A group of disgruntled students from the University of Waterloo wants city staff to regularly inspect its largest apartment buildings, instead of leaving it up to tenants to ask for help.

Students want regular biweekly inspections at city's largest rental buildings

University of Waterloo students David Moscoe (left) and Sylvia Skoruch (right) want the city to regularly visit its largest rental buildings and enforce work orders, instead of leaving it up to tenants to report problems. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

A group of students from the University of Waterloo want city staff to regularly inspect units in the municipality's largest rental buildings, instead of leaving it up to tenants to ask for help.

The request was one on a list of demands that students presented at a Waterloo city council meeting Monday.

Right now, municipal enforcement services can only enter a rental unit if they're invited by tenants. But students say the onus for dealing with bad landlords should be on the city, not on them.

"[The system right now is] very laborious and tedious and this kind of circumvents all that," said David Moscoe, a fourth year engineering student.

Inspired by Toronto policy

Moscoe said the city could give advance notice of when they planned to show up, so tenants could plan to be home to let them in. He suggested the city could start with its 25 largest buildings and investigate on a biweekly basis.

The idea is based on a similar initiative developed by the City of Toronto in 2000, Moscoe said.

Shayne Turner, Waterloo's director of municipal enforcement services, said he'll consider the idea.

"I'm not saying it's not doable but it's not something we've done in the past," said Turner, adding that he wants to consult with other municipalities who've implemented similar initiatives.

During the meeting, students also asked the city for:

  • A homeless shelter to be established in the city of Waterloo.
  • More affordable housing.
  • Support for a municipal tenant association.
  • An investigation into landlords who control large numbers of rental units.

The students' demands come in the wake of a data breach at Accomod8u, a popular rental company that revealed thousands of past maintenance requests.

The anonymous hacker behind the breach alleged the requests and the time it took for repairs demonstrated negligence on the part of the landlord, and that such problems are common in student-geared rental properties.

The property owner has fired back against the hackers, saying it maintains its properties and deals with problems quickly.

Issue gaining provincial attention

Catherine Fife, MPP for Waterloo, has thrown her support behind the students. She said for years students have come to her office with complaints about landlords, but now these issues have reached a tipping point.

"Post-secondary students have shared stories of having to live with bed bug infestations, lack of heating, unanswered maintenance calls, unreturned key deposits of up to $600, and unsanitary units," she wrote in a letter to the province's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark.

Fife called on Clark to establish a provincial strategy to provide students with affordable housing and an expedited process "to uphold their rights as tenants."

The ministry confirmed Monday that it has received Fife's letter and is reviewing it.

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