City hall committee votes to create licensing system for landlords

Can anything be done to improve conditions in Toronto's worst apartment buildings? Committee votes to go ahead with licensing idea for landlords

Rental housing organization argues Toronto already has rules in place

The City of Toronto is considering new rules that could ensure annual inspections for large apartment buildings. (John Rieti/CBC)

The city's municipal licensing and standards committee voted Thursday to move ahead with a landlord licensing system for apartment buildings across Toronto. The goal: to crack down on bad landlords.

Scarborough tenant Joy Ruscitti-Hayes said she would welcome the news. 

There's garbage in her apartment building's common rooms. Its stairwells sometimes double as bathrooms. And Scarborough resident Joy Ruscitti-Hayes says her landlord won't respond to frequent complaints from tenants.

"No one oversees them. They can get away with a lot," she told CBC News.

Only largest buildings affected

The rules would apply to rental buildings that have 10 or more units or are three stories tall or higher. The proposed system would also include annual inspections and require landlords to make sure maintenance plans are in place.

The committee wants licensing fees to be between $12 and $15 per unit as a starting point during consultations with tenant groups, landlords and the public. 

Daryl Chong, of the Greater Toronto Apartments Association, warned the committee that tenants could bear the brunt of licensing fees forced on landlords.

"There's a cost to whatever the licensing fee will be ... There is going to be added administrative costs," Chong said. "These things will be passed on to tenants."

Coun. Josh Matlow, who spearheaded the idea of licensing landlords, called those warnings "scaremongering." And Coun. Francis Nunziata, who was at Thursday's meeting, said landlords won't be allowed to pass the extra costs on to tenants.

Matlow represents Ward 22 St. Paul's, which has the highest number of tenants in the city.

"While there are good landlords within our city, who take their responsibilities seriously, we all know there are far too  many who don't," he said.

"Tenants have been frustrated. There are no genuine protections for them. The city often doesn't have the tools to fulfil work orders and do a good job."

A 'new layer of bureaucracy'

But Scott Andison, president and CEO of the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, said the city already sends inspectors to check buildings where there have been complaints and that system should be good enough.

"The licensing regime is to implement a brand new layer of bureaucracy of 3,300 buildings within the city," he said.

"It's not going to do anything to improve quality."

The city's licensing committee voted to send to city council a motion that would start consultations on a licensing plan. Council meets next on June 7.


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