Global News: Advocates push for landlord licensing in Nova Scotia

Posted May 4, 2017

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is working to make housing, and more specifically, landlord licensing, a provincial election issue.
On Sunday, they published their “Nova Scotia Provincial Tenant Survey” as a way of establishing a solid database of the issues facing renters.
“We launched the survey to show people that not only are there hard facts out there, but also to give the tenants an opportunity to give their real opinions without recoil,” said Jonathan Brigley, ACORN Dartmouth chair.
Brigley said since the survey launched on Sunday, they’ve already received upwards of 200 responses, all of which paint a picture of the realities facing some tenants.
“There are probably more slum landlords than actual good landlords from what we’ve been hearing,” said Brigley.
“This goes from big name [companies] to actual private ones who rent out of their basement to students for the year.”
He said their organization hopes to make housing a provincial election issue, and have brought it to the attention of all three major political parties.
“So far, we had the NDP quite positive throughout our meets with them — we’re waiting to hear back from the Liberals and the Conservatives,” said Brigley.
They also hope to shed light on what they say is a need for landlord licensing, not just in Halifax but throughout the province.
“It’s like having a restaurant,” said Brigley.
“You wouldn’t want to go to a restaurant that isn’t licensed and inspected by the city.”
Kevin Russell, chair with the Investment Property Owners Association, said they’re not sold on the idea that licensing is the best avenue to take.
“If it goes to a full-blown [licensing enforcement], then we’re not supportive of it because there’s already currently a bylaw regime in place,” said Russell.
“I think we should work on fixing the current issues before we even look at another layer of enforcement.”
He said he doesn’t think licensing will solve any of the issues facing tenants as it would be difficult to ensure that all “bad” landlords obtained licences in the first place.
“A lot of bylaw complaints go uninvestigated — we’d like to fix that,” said Russell.
“I think there is a gap in enforcement protocol that has to be corrected, and should be looked at.”
In a statement to Global News, HRM spokesperson Brendan Elliott said staff is currently “looking into the broader issue of licensing, which may include landlords, and will bring something back to council.”
This stems from a report from April 2016, in which it was recommended that council direct staff to conduct workshops with ACORN, IPONANS, among other stakeholders.
The timeline to come back to council was originally fall 2017, however, that has since been pushed back.
“The two employees who prepared the… report are no longer in those positions,” said Elliott in a statement.
“We are now actively searching for replacements in both positions. So, I’m not sure how far along we have progressed with the actions associated with the report, in light of the two vacancies.”
The ACORN survey will be made available until June 30.



Article by Jennifer Grudic for Global News