Toronto city council beefs up requirements for landlords, but some tenants are skeptical

Tenant advocates are excited that city council voted in changes Wednesday to the RentSafeTO program aimed at holding landlords more accountable for taking care of their buildings. But some renters are skeptical.

Landlords ignore the RentSafeTO program and changes won't work, tenant says

Toronto city council is beefing up a program to ensure more protection for tenants, so problems with buildings like these don't go undetected during inspections. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

Tenant advocates are voicing their support Wednesday after Toronto city council voted unanimously to beef up a program aimed at holding landlords accountable for keeping their buildings in good repair, but some renters are skeptical it will work.

The RentSafeTO bylaw, which was passed by city council in 2017, allows staff to enforce property standards across buildings in Toronto. 

Councillors voted 24-0 to implement new recommendations, including requiring landlords to post pest-control timelines and publicly share any fire code violations. 

For tenant advocate Kemba Robinson of ACORN, giving the city's RentSafeTO program more teeth means more security for renters. 

"We've been working on this for a very long time," she said. 

The changes also require buildings to display their "RentSafe evaluation," similar to that of the DineSafe cards posted at restaurants. 

Kemba Robinson, a tenant advocate with ACORN, says because of the new rules, tenants will actually be aware of the problems within their buildings. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

While the changes are being celebrated by some, renters like Renan Yildazdogon say the program doesn't work to begin with. He says RentSafe hasn't done anything to improve conditions in his building near Wellington Street West and Bathurst Street.

"This building, the old owners the new owners —  they didn't spend a dime on it," he said.

He says the hallways are in disarray, with peeling paint and clutter everywhere. The windows and doors make the building look like it's abandoned, he claims. 

Renan Yildazdogon has lived in his building for more than a decade, but is now being evicted so the landlord can renovate. He says the RentSafeTO program doesn't provide him with any protection. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

"People are supposed to be coming here checking temperatures, and enforcing the landlords to clean up the hallways, garbage pick up — they haven't done any of that,"  Yildazdogon told CBC Toronto.

He says the building's latest owner is kicking everyone out to turn the building into condos and no one from the city has stepped in.

Renan Yildazdogon says his building looks like its been abandoned with all the peeling paint and clutter. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

But council hopes the changes to RentSafeTO will take care of issues like the ones Yildazdogon describes.

The city says it intends to ask the province for powers to investigate violations by landlords while they're happening, not after.

Coun. Josh Matlow says these new changes strengthen the Rentsafe program and are a win for renters

"There are so many landlords these days who are moving forward with renovictions, or pretending they're moving a family member in, only to vacate the unit and push the tenant out and hike the rent to make more money — and these tenants lives are put in disarray," Matlow said, adding the changes will ensure that doesn't happen.  

Coun. Josh Matlow says the changes will ensure the voices of renters are heard, not just the landlords. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

"It's flipping the onus and flipping the burden of responsibility back on to the landlord to maintain their buildings and ensure they are caring about the health, safety, and well-being of their tenants," he said. 

He says the city also needs to hire more officers to inspect buildings. Otherwise, issues like damage, bugs and mould could stay hidden.

Kemba Robinson says while there may be landlords that want to ignore the new rules, she hopes that city council will ensure they actually get enforced. 

"Incoming tenants will now be aware of situations in the building."

With files from Lauren Pelley