Metro News: Toronto needs to get 'proactive' about tenant complaints, councillors say

Posted May 20, 2016

Getting the cracked ceiling or broken plumbing in your apartment fixed in a timely fashion shouldn’t depend on the goodwill of your local councillor, tenant advocates in Toronto say.
As the city mulls a licensing regime for landlords in order to facilitate building inspections, critics of the existing system say it’s too reliant on tenant complaints and proactive politicians.
“Tenants feel intimidated, some have language barriers or are afraid of evictions,” said ACORN Canada’s Natalie Hundt , who explained why tenants can be reluctant to call the city about problems in their homes.
“There are tenants out there who think inspectors are an extension of the police. Others are cynical and don’t think calling will help them get results.”
And many don’t even know they can call 311 with a complaint, she said.
The end result is that complaints about leaky faucets or bedbugs are often fielded by city councillors, some of whom want the city to get proactive about tenant issues.
Coun. Gord Perks, whose Parkdale-High Park ward includes a number of the most-cited buildings in the Toronto, supports a plan to force landlords to pay a licensing fee so the city can conduct building inspections more often.
“Where the councillor may not be as engaged, it would give staff a tool to go and take action on their own,” he said.
Scarborough Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker also supports the plan and believes the city needs to do more to inform tenants about their rights.
“If you work with us, your problem will get fixed,” he said. “But you have to call, because right now we are a reactive system.”
The issue will be debated at Thursday’s municipal licensing and standards committee meeting.
Article by Steven Goetz for Metro News Toronto