CityNews Toronto: Tenants continue push for RentSafeTO colour-coded system

Posted October 29, 2021


  • The city did recently launched an interactive map online - where people can access inspection results.
  • Around 88 per cent of tenants in buildings registered for RentSafeTO like the rating system so far.
  • The push continues to set up colour-coded sign system to display ratings.

Despite recent setbacks, city councillors and renters’ advocates are still pushing Toronto to follow through on a key piece of its RentSafeTO program.

“There are some landlords who are good landlords and care about their tenants well-being and there are too many landlords who don’t,” said Councillor Josh Matlow.

As originally planned, RentSafeTO would have set up a colour-coded sign system that would clearly display a property’s inspection rating, similar to the city’s programs for restaurants and spas.

RentSafeTO was established in July 2017 with the goal of safer and cleaner conditions for tenants. It required landlords of buildings with three or more stories and 10 or more units to register with the city and be regularly inspected. One of the key parts of the program was the red-yellow-green sign system, but City Council ultimately voted that measure down last December.

The original purpose of the colour-coded system was to encourage landlords to “up their game” and aim for a green sign, Matlow explained. It was also important for a prospective tenant to be able to see if their building would be safe and healthy if they signed a lease.

“Too many tenants for years have complained that their buildings are not only in a state of disrepair, they feel ashamed to even invite their friends over because of the state of disrepair that their units and their buildings are in,” Matlow added.

In a recent community newsletter, Matlow told residents that some councillors opposed the measure because “a red rating on the front of a building would stigmatize renters inside.”

He disagrees with that notion, telling CityNews, “They’re already feeling ashamed of the conditions that they’re living in and they want the landlord to have some real incentive to be able to clean up their act literally and support the health and safety of their tenants.”

Advocates for low- and moderate-income community members agree that the city should follow through on the colour-coded system.

“When you have a sign very visible that says that this apartment building failed to protect the tenants and to give the standards that the city has put in place, for us, it’s a win-win,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, a chair within the Toronto chapter of advocacy group ACORN.

The city did recently launch an interactive map online – where people can access inspection results for thousands of rental buildings. They’ll see a score out of 100 based on different categories and can determine which properties are in worse shape than others.

Based on the city’s own consultation last year, 88 per cent of tenants in buildings registered for RentSafeTO like the rating system so far, but there’s more to be done that could improve it.

Matlow said he plans to bring a motion forward at city council to reconsider the colour-coded system, which he will have the opportunity to do in a year from now. He will need two-thirds of council to agree in order for it to be reconsidered.


Article by Meredith Bond for CityNews


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