Posted January 15, 2020
If the stove is busted in your apartment, don't expect Hamilton municipal law enforcement to get on the landlord's case.
Appliances don't fall under the city's property standards bylaw. But tenant rights advocates hope a review of the local regulations will change that.
On Tuesday, elected officials backed Coun. Terry Whitehead's call for a review of the property standards bylaw in light of renters' concerns.
"We, as government, need to take responsibility to ensure that we have the mechanisms in place in a timely fashion to address these issues on all fronts to improve your living," he told tenants gathered at city hall to support his motion.
Hamilton ACORN, a local advocacy group and tenants' federation, has pushed city officials to put more teeth into the municipality's property standards bylaw and enforcement for three years, ACORN downtown chair Mike Wood said.
Some local ACORN members have lived with busted fridges and stoves for months and years, he said.
Inoperable buzzers, a lack of mailboxes, and filthy, clogged ventilation systems also escape the city's scrutiny, he added.
"We have had many members continue to live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions after bylaw was unable to enforce the landlord to fix the issues."
Other cities, such as Toronto, have "taken the lead" by implementing more robust regulations and enforcement, Wood said.
"It's not fair to expect tenants to resort to filing at the Landlord and Tenant Board for basic repairs that should be covered by the bylaw."
Wood faulted the city for being too lenient with landlords when it comes to enforcing orders, allowing problems to fester. Subpar conditions can affect tenants' mental health, he said.
A project manager has already looked into property standards bylaws in the Greater Toronto Area, said Ken Leendertse, director of licensing and bylaw enforcement.
"We're always encouraged to look at ways of improving our bylaws and our enforcement."
The review will consider whether appliances, for instance, should be included in the bylaw, Leendertse said.
That will involve examining how the bylaw dovetails with the Ontario Building Code and Municipal Act, he noted.
Leendertse said the review will seek input from tenants and landlords alike, as well as city departments, in an effort "try and balance the needs."
He expects a staff report back to city councillors in the third quarter of this year.
Patricia Galvin, who lives in a highrise on Hughson Street South, said her calls to the city haven't resolved problems in her building.
"I'm seeing seniors that are bitten to pieces by bedbugs. I'm seeing furniture being thrown out," said Galvin, a pensioner who pays $743 a month for her unit of three years.
She has electrical tape around her kitchen sink faucets because they leak and caulking on the rotting countertop. Sticky pads are an attempt to keep cockroaches at bay.
Any attempt to eradicate the pests "has been totally inadequate," said Galvin, who's also an ACORN member. "And now the tenants are getting mice. That's new."
The Spectator wasn't able to reach the landlord for comment.
During Tuesday's planning committee meeting, Wood showed a slide of an exposed electrical outlet, lifted floor tiles and filthy vents.
"It's terrible that we have a system in place that is called property standards and this is what we have in front of us happening."
Whitehead's motion must be ratified at council next week.
Article by Teviah Moro for the Hamilton Spectator