Toronto council takes a step toward licensing landlords

Toronto city council voted Wednesday to forge ahead with a plan that could one day force the city's biggest landlords to apply for a license to rent out their apartments.

'You don't get a chance to test drive a rental apartment like you do a car,' licensing chief tells council

A report by city staff on the feasability of licensing the Toronto's biggest private landlords is expected back at council by the fall (CBC)

Toronto city council voted Wednesday to forge ahead with a plan that could one day force the city's biggest landlords to apply for a license to rent out their apartments.

Council voted 33-6 to ask municipal licensing staff to start public consultations on the idea, which would only apply to buildings that are 10 stories or more, or contain more than three units.

A staff report on the idea is expected to completed by the fall.

Municipal Licensing and Standards executive director Tracey Cook backed the idea Wednesday, saying both landlords and tenants would benefit.

Landlords would know exactly what living standards they would be expected to provide, and "tenants and prospective tenants would know exactly what they're walking into.

"You don't get a chance to test drive a rental apartment like you do a car," she said.

In order to get a license, landlords would be expected to show that they have a state-of-good-repair program in place, as well as meet cleanliness and waste management targets.

Landlords lobbying tenants to oppose plan

There would also be a licensing fee, although Cook said the amount won't be decided until the consultations are complete. 

A landlords' lobby in the past has suggested that any licensing fee would be passed on to tenants, but Cook said that would likely be a violation of the provincial Landlord and Tenant Act.

Even so, some councillors reported during  Wednesday's debate that their apartment-dwelling constituents have been the target of a leafleting campaign by landlords, who have convinced them that the licensing plan is actually a tax on tenants.

"There's been a lot of misinformation out there," said Ward 22 Coun. Josh Matlow, who has championed the licensing idea.

Councillors heard that about 3,200 buildings would be affected, and that 1.5 million people — about half the population of Toronton — are renters.

Critics say it's unnecessary red tape 

Several councillors criticized the idea of a landlord license, saying it adds unnecessary expense and red tape to the industry.

Ward 3 Coun. Stephen Holyday even began unravelling a roll of red masking tape to illustrate his point.

Cook told Ward 7 Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti that the licensing fee would probably not apply to the city's biggest landlord, Toronto Community Housing, which is run by the city and is expected to pile up a repair bill in excess of $2.5 billion over the next 10 years.

TCH units "are full of mould, they're broken down, there are bathrooms that are in a complete shambles," he said. "So I don't know how licensing private landlords is going to help the largest problem, that being our own units," Mammoliti said.