Posted March 24, 2021
Hamilton is poised to revamp its property standards bylaw to oblige landlords to keep rentals in decent condition after years of tenant advocacy.
Councillors have asked staff to amend the bylaw to include problem areas that tenants identified, including faulty appliances, grimy hallways, broken cupboards and inoperable intercoms.
“We are tenants, and just because we don’t own our own property doesn’t mean we get to live in these substandard conditions,” Veronica Gonzalez told the planning committee Tuesday.
The Mountain resident said it was a “real fight” to have her landlord address mould.
“It was a struggle mentally and socially, and it affected my everyday life,” said Gonzalez, who’s a member of Hamilton ACORN, an advocacy group that has pushed the city for measures to protect tenants since 2017.
Dayna Sparkes, an east-end resident and fellow ACORN member, said some landlords “stop doing repairs as a tactic” to push tenants out and rent at higher rates.
The mother of four said she struggled to get her landlord to repair broken kitchen cupboards and worried they would fall on her children. “What are tenants supposed to do in these instances?”
Appealing to the Landlord and Tenant Board involves application fees and months even before a hearing is scheduled, Sparkes said.
Coun. Jason Farr’s motion for a redrafted bylaw follows Coun. Terry Whitehead’s consultation with tenants and request for a staff review.
In it, staff note “opportunities to enhance” the bylaw to address chronic problem areas tenants flagged.
“Good tenants deserve the peace of mind to have healthy and safe environments,” Farr said.
Tenants also said pests — rats, mice, bedbugs and cockroaches — were major concerns.
“Imagine all of those people that have to go through an infestation over and over again, every time replacing their belongings,” Gonzalez said.
The current property standards bylaw only deals with ants, said Ken Leendertse, bylaw and licensing director.
Public health addresses pests like bedbugs and rats, but staff are exploring another new bylaw to tackle the issue, he said.
The committee’s decision awaits final approval at council March 31.
Article by Teviah Moro for the Hamilton Spectator