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FAQs about Landlord Licensing in the HRM - ACORN Canada

FAQs about Landlord Licensing in the HRM

Posted December 6, 2022

What Licensing Landlord would do?

Licensing landlords would create an enforcement system for the HRM’s M-200 Bylaw, Respecting Standards for Residential Occupancies, is essentially a list of conditions that need to be upheld by a landlord renting out a unit.

Currently, the enforcement system for the M-200 bylaw is fraught with issues.

It relies on tenants to know what the bylaw is and how to make a formal complaint. Problem is most tenants don’t know about the bylaw, and when they do, they fear reprisals from landlords for lodging a formal complaint.

For tenants who manage to lodge formal complaints, the HRM is slow to respond. The times between complaints and inspections are lengthy. When the HRM does inspect the building and conclude M-200 violations exist, they are most often unable to force the landlord into compliance.

By giving regulatory powers and enforcement tools to the HRM, landlord licensing would enable the bylaw department to deal with scofflaw landlords who refuse to keep buildings up to legal standards. For example, the landlord licensing system in Toronto (RentSafeTO) enables the city to go into buildings, do needed repairs, and charge the landlord on their property tax bill.

Finally, proactive inspection of apartment buildings takes the burden of initiating M-200 enforcement away from tenants and puts that onto the bylaw enforcement officers. Landlord licensing would do that.

Will landlords be able to pass costs onto tenants?

Under the Rent Cap that ACORN won in 2020, landlords can only raise rents by 2% a year. While some landlords may claim that keeping their apartments up to basic standards will force them to raise rents, they only can do so by 2%. In most cases,they are already doing that.

What about the ‘good’ landlords, why do they need to be licensed?

Landlords who keep their buildings up to code will benefit from landlord licensing. The system will show that many landlords do keep their building in good repair. Likewise, it will show that slumlords who force tenants to live in substandard conditions as being violators.

Apartment buildings need to be treated the same for the system to work. The only way to know if a building is bad is through proactive inspections of all buildings. The provincial health officials don’t only inspect restaurants that are known to be bad, all restaurants get inspected to ensure public safety. It can be no different for rental housing.

What if a landlord loses their licence?

Overall, licensing will increase landlord compliance to the municipal health and safety standards laid out in the M-200 bylaw. Licensing does this by giving the city more power to issue penalties to landlords who are in non-compliance with the M-200 bylaw.

Landlords will not lose their license for non-compliance, that is not how landlord licensing works. It is the license that enables the municipality to enforce municipal health and safety standards set out in the M-200 bylaw.

For example, if a landlord fails an inspection, they will be issued a work order by the HRM with a clear timeline to fix the problem. If that landlord fails to make the repairs within the timeline given by the HRM, they could face a financial penalty which the city has the ability to collect through their taxation powers. That enforcement is only made possible when a landlord has a license.

In the rare instance that a scofflaw landlord refuses to license itself, the city has ways to financially punish those landlords into accepting the licensing system. For the tenants in the unfortunate situation of renting from a scofflaw landlord who refuses to participate in the licensing system – sadly, they are in a precarious position with or without a licensing system in place. ACORN will fight with these tenants to get stable affordable housing to call home, but in no way is their housing issue worsened by a landlord licensing system.