Sudbury educating international students about off-campus housing rights
Neighbours want city to be proactive with problematic rooming houses, absentee landlords
Prabhjeet Kaur, who's from Amritsar, India, is sharing a basement room with her friend in Greater Sudbury, Ont.
Both are new international students at Cambrian College. They arrived in Canada a week ago.
The two found the rental space on Kijiji and took it before seeing it in-person. They share a kitchen and bathroom with three other female students.
"We chose that because [the space] is shared and we are students. It's difficult for us to give [pay] the rent," Kaur said, adding that so far, things are going well.
The two roommates were at a community services fair at Cambrian where community partners were invited to speak to new students starting school this month.
One of the booths included representatives from Greater Sudbury's bylaw and building services. The city wanted to make sure students who are living off campus know what landlords should be providing in their rental units.
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In 2022 Greater Sudbury inspected 20 rooming houses. Landlords were all required to make necessary changes.
"When we're in these properties, we're making sure that any work has been done with permits," said Stefany Mussen, manager of corporate security and bylaw services.
"That there's enough exits in the unit, the electrical is safe, sufficient smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Really the goal is just to make sure there's safe housing options for people in the city," she added.
"We will work with the property owner to work towards compliance.
"We would identify any deficiencies that might be present and give them timelines to rectify those situations."
Residents who are concerned about a neighbouring property can check the city's website to find out if a property owner has legally obtained the proper permits to build a secondary unit.
Frustration for neighbours
Meanwhile, Sudbury residents like Maria Bozzo are frustrated with the number of problems cropping up with rooming houses across the city.
Bozzo lives in New Sudbury not far from Cambrian. She said a house on her street was sold a few years ago and bought by a landlord who didn't live in the city.
"All of a sudden there were people coming in and out of that house at all hours," she said.
"It was very disconcerting - the cars in the driveway, the garbage not picked up."
Bozzo wants the city to take a more proactive approach to problems at rooming houses.
"I mean, everything is complaint driven. To a certain extent, some of these things should be noticed as bylaw is driving by in the neighbourhood."
Aime Dimatteo, who also lives in New Sudbury, said that quite often, several vehicles are parked on neighbouring lawns where there are known rooming houses. The grass normally isn't mowed, nor the garbage picked up.
Dimatteo has called in a complaint into the city about the violations in property standards and bylaws.
"As I've said to my [city] councillor, I don't work for the city. I'm not the police. We've complained one time."
He wants consistent followup by the city's various departments inspecting and investigating these shared accommodations.
"All the city keeps saying to me is call back in or send us an email of complaint again — and again and again," Dimatteo said.
"We all said, 'It's not our job.' We'll do it the first time, but ultimately city: you've got to be more proactive and ensure that the issues are being handled," he added.
Both Bozzo and Dimatteo admit not all landlords in Sudbury neglect their properties or take advantage of international students.
But Bozzo is glad the city is providing tenant education about property and housing standards — like what was happening at Cambrian's community services fair.
"Because people living in those conditions should be speaking up too."