Montreal

Montreal launches rental price registry, certification of landlords

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says the city wants to “tighten the screws” on owners of substandard rental buildings, and fight renovictions and “abusive” rent increases, by launching a rental price registry and a new certification program for landlords.

New rules cover buildings of 8 or more units, an estimated 250,000 rental units

Montreal mayor Valérie Plante and Benoit Dorais, executive committee member in charge of housing, say the new registry is intended to guard against substandard housing, renovictions and "abusive" rent increases. (CBC/Jennifer Yoon)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says the city wants to "tighten the screws" on owners of substandard rental buildings, and fight renovictions and "abusive" rent increases by launching a rental price registry and a new certification program for landlords.

"The vast majority of building owners take care of their buildings," said Plante. "Unfortunately there is a minority of owners who force us to take these strong measures."

The owner certificate was one of the key promises Plante and her party, Projet Montréal, made during the recent municipal election in November. 

Under the new system, landlords who own buildings of eight or more units will be required to register. The city estimates this will cover 250,000 units — 35 per cent of the rental housing stock — in 12,000 buildings. 

Owners will be required to submit information about the state of their buildings to the city every five years, including how much rent they are charging tenants and whether units are occupied or vacant.

They will also have to attest to the fact that their building is in good structural condition, free of vermin and mould, and commit to carrying out improvements where needed, outlined in a maintenance plan. 

Benoit Dorais, Montreal's executive committee member in charge of housing, says the new rules target buildings of eight units and more, in part because a study by Montreal public health found that most cases of unsanitary housing were found in buildings of this size.

Plante said the registry "reverses the burden of proof," to require landlords to prove that their buildings are in good shape.

"It won't be up to the city to play cat and mouse with owners over sanitary and building safety problems," said Dorais, executive member in charge of housing. 

The city says the new rules target buildings of eight units and more, in part because a study by Montreal public health found that the majority of cases of unsanitary housing were found in buildings of this size. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

The information, including rental prices, will be made publicly available on the city's website. 

Asked about whether publishing the rental rates of individual units could pose privacy issues for renters, Dorais said the city had received legal advice indicating that a rental registry would be allowed.

However, he said the city's economic development, housing and urban planning committee would hold public consultations on the registry, in order to address issues such as privacy. 

Fines accumulate daily, per unit

Owners who do not comply with the certification could face fines for every day that they rent a unit without being registered.

For an individual, these fines will range from $250 to $650 for a first offence, and $1,250 to $2,500 for repeat offences. A business could face fines of between $500 and $1,250 for a first offence and $2,500 to $5,000 for repeat offences.

As well, owners who are not registered will not be eligible for financial assistance under the city's affordable housing renovation program. The certification can also be revoked, if the owner refuses to make necessary upgrades to the building. 

The city will carry out periodic verifications on a certain number of buildings each year, which could include inspections.

But Dorais underlined that the fact that a particular building is included in the registry does not mean that it has been inspected by the city and should not be interpreted as a guarantee that the building has no sanitary or maintenance issues.

Dorais added that the city had not yet determined how much it will cost building owners to register, but that it would be reasonable.

"This is not a way to fill the city's coffers," he said.

Benoit Dorais, Montreal's executive committee member in charge of housing, says because the fines for not complying with the registry will accumulate per day and per unit, they are significant enough to be dissuasive. (Radio-Canada / Ivanoh Demers)

Martin Messier, president of the Quebec Landlords Association (APQ), calls the registry "completely inappropriate."

"It's like killing a fly with a bomb," said Messier.

He says there are already sufficient protections in place for tenants and that the province's housing tribunal and the building inspection board (RBQ) are already tasked with ensuring the standard of housing.

Messier says the registry will increase the financial burden on building owners by requiring them to pay out of pocket for experts who can prove that their buildings are in good shape.

"We don't see why landlords should spend more money and also all the the Montrealers, as a matter of fact, should spend more money to [administer] this huge system."

Owners of smaller buildings have 5 years to comply

The city's plan requires modifying the existing bylaw on the sanitation and maintenance of dwelling units, which is anticipated to happen only in the winter of 2023. 

The certification will be rolled out for the largest buildings first. Those with 100 units or more will have to comply by June 1, 2023, while owners of buildings of eight to 11 units will have until June 1, 2027.

Dorais said the gradual application is, in part, to make sure that the city has the capacity to handle the number of new registrations and the number of inspections that are necessary.

But housing groups say this timeline is too slow, to deal with the pace of rent increases facing Montreal. 

Housing groups say Montreal's proposed rental & landlord registry does not go far enough and will not be implemented quickly enough to slow the rate of rent increases in the city. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Marion Duval, spokesperson for the coalition of housing committees and tenants associations of Quebec (RCLALQ) says while the registry a first step in addressing unsanitary housing, she says the reporting requirements for rental prices are not stringent enough.

"It's not a housing or a rent registry that actually helps to fight the increase and the exploding price of the rent right now," said Duval. 

She says the registry will not be sufficiently up-to-date to help tenants challenge their rent increases at Quebec's administrative housing tribunal (TAL) and that landlords should be required to report rental prices every year.

Duval also wants to see the rules applied to buildings of six units or more, rather than eight units.

In an email to Radio-Canada, Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for the tenants' right group the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) said it was deplorable that tenants of smaller buildings wouldn't be covered by the registry. 

"Leaving out such a large number of rental buildings removes a good part of the...dissuasive impact of this tool," Laflamme wrote.

In a press release, the Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec (CORPIQ), representing 25,000 Quebec landlords and property managers, says while it shares the objective of offering quality housing to Montrealers, it is disappointed that it was not consulted by the city. 

Both landlord groups and tenants' rights groups say they will participate in the public consultations on the registry.

With files from Jennifer Yoon, Radio-Canada

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