Chronicle Herald: Low-income tenants demand Halifax license landlords

Posted May 14, 2014

Sixteen low-income apartment dwellers — many upset with their poor living conditions — rallied in front of Halifax City Hall Tuesday to demand accountability from derelict landlords.
 
They are demanding that the Halifax Regional Municipality license landlords.
 
The rally was organized by Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an anti-poverty group that fights for tenants rights.
 
“This is about a way to keep landlords accountable for the properties...that they’re renting out to us and to help the city...enforce the law that they have already passed — enforce the by-laws and the standards that they have already decided on,” Scott Domenie, co-chair of of Nova Scotia ACORN’s Halifax Chapter.
 
At the rally, people held signs that said: “No rodents needed” and “Where’s my heat?”. Another sign with a drawing of a toilet read “out of order.”
 
Within three weeks of moving into his Gottingen Street bachelor apartment in Halifax last October Darryl had cockroaches.
 
“And, that’s been constant ever since,” Darryl, who asked that his last name not be used, said. “Now, it has been reduced the last few months and it’s got a little bit easier but I still see them.”
 
And since February he’s had mice in his apartment on-and-off.
 
The traps his landlord set have helped but still Darryl worries that they’re still elsewhere in his building.
 
“I mean I can live with the small little cockroaches but when I see that (a mouse) in the apartment and I have an animal (a dog) in the apartment, it’s a safety issue. I see it as a safety issue but when you’re on limited funds what else can you do? I can’t afford to go out and get a $600 or $800 apartment.”
 
Catherine rents an two-bedroom apartment in north-end Dartmouth that is infested with rats, bedbugs and ants. There is also often problems with her heating. And, two weeks ago, she said about 200 ants invaded her apartment.
 
“When you talk to the city inspectors they say well as along as there is a pesticide program in place, that’s it,” Catherine, who also asked that her last name not be published said. “Well all the man does is come in a put the traps down, that’s it. But they need to do something else. They need to fumigate, they need to make more of an effort.”
 
Most of Catherine’s neighbours are low-income seniors, students, immigrants and people with disabilities.
 
“These people...they may not even know what the laws are or they’re too elderly to have the energy to fight back and they really need someone to assist them,” Catherine said. “There needs to be some kind of advocacy and we need the landlord licensing because what’s that’s going to do is the landlord is going to need to submit to this inspection each year. They will have to come up to code.”
 
Regional council has directed staff to research the issue of landlord licensing.
 
“There are currently no municipal by-laws in place to support or require licensing of landlords and as of right now there are no official proposals before the municipality to implement such licensing,” HRM spokeswoman Jennifer Stairs said in an email Tuesday.
 
“As such, the staff report would be an information item only, it would not provide any advice to Council or make any specific recommendations regarding the issue.”
 
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Article by Sherri Borden Colley for the Chronicle Herald