Insauga.com: Mississauga tenants say new program that fines bad landlords doesn’t go far enough
Posted February 7, 2023
Although a newly launched rental apartment inspection program allows the City of Mississauga to proactively inspect properties for glaring issues, some tenants and advocacy groups say the program needs ‘more teeth’ when dealing with unreliable landlords and property management companies.
“Landlords have rules to follow and uphold, but they don’t always do it. It’s very unjust; we want people living with dignity in healthy and safe homes,” says Nabeela Irfan, a leader at Peel ACORN, an independent social and economic justice organization comprised in part of low- and moderate-income Mississauga residents.
“When the MARC [rental inspection program] was approved, we were really happy. In theory, it should be a good program.”
The problem with the program, Irfan and some tenants say, is that it truly lacks ‘teeth.’
That said, Irfan says it’s a start.
City Council approved the five-year Mississauga Apartment Rental Compliance (MARC) Pilot program in November 2021. The pilot program, introduced after advocacy groups told council that some landlords were refusing to address everything from heating malfunctions to pest infestations in several buildings, is an apartment building standards and maintenance program.
Similar to Toronto’s RentSafe program, MARC includes proactive rather than reactive building inspections and lays out city-wide property standards that all rental building operators must adhere to.
According to the City, MARC covers 337 buildings and over 30,000 units.
The rental apartment buildings bylaw (which came into effect on July 31, 2022) requires the owners and operators of all purpose-built rental buildings to register annually with the city. Failure to do so could result in a $100,000 fine.
As of this writing, 88 notice of contraventions have been issued to non-compliant buildings, but no fines have been issued. The City says that as of January 13, 2023, 96 per cent of buildings have registered.
The 2022 registration fee was $18.25 per rental unit.
“Staff are focusing on achieving overall compliance through a progressive enforcement strategy. MARC staff continue to investigate the non-compliant buildings,” a City spokesperson told insauga.com in an email.
The City says that once registered, building owners must ensure apartment buildings meet certain standards in terms of tenant service request processes, cleanliness and waste management, electrical maintenance, pest management, planning for vital service disruptions and record keeping. The buildings must also be in a state of good repair, document how they’re assisting tenants, use certified tradespeople for maintenance and repairs and operate a tenant notification board.
The program also includes a streamlined complaints process for tenants and levies potential fines for owners and landlords who fail to meet the standards.
Irfan says tenants have told her they’re not seeing results.
“[The program] needs to be effective and it needs to be sustainable. In those two arenas, Peel ACORN members have concerns,” says Irfan.
“Some buildings have not registered and there are no consequences so far. It can carry penalty, but it seems they’re not following through on this. I think the city needs to get its act together and give this more teeth.”
April Johnston and Sherry Woods, two tenants who live in the Village West Apartments complex located at 425 Rathburn Rd. E. told insauga.com that they want program inspectors to spend more time knocking on doors and talking to tenants.
Johnston says that after two years of asking building management for repairs and better maintenance, she and Woods connected with ACORN and learned about the MARC program.
“The city came in but their first step is to check the exterior and common area and if that gets a failing grade, they’ll check the inside–but the inside is what gets the failing grades,” Johnston says.
“The MARC program would be a great idea if they knocked on the door and talked to tenants. They’re just talking to property management and superintendents, who will hide the issue. It’s a good idea. It’s just not being implemented the way it should be. They should be knocking on tenants’ doors.”
A City spokesperson says that Municipal Law Enforcement Officers (MLEOs) can and will inspect individual units upon receiving complaints from tenants.
“MLEOs will inspect individual units upon receiving a complaint from the tenant or someone authorized to act on their behalf. This is because MLEOs require consent from the occupier in order to conduct an inspection of a dwelling unit,” the spokesperson said in an email to insauga.com.
“As part of the MARC program, MLEOs will conduct proactive building evaluations of common areas and assign a score for state of repair, cleanliness, pest management and compliance with pilot program standards. The score will be used by the City to determine the frequency of future inspections.”
Johnston says she has yet to be proactively approached by an MLEO.
“No one from MARC has ever come to my door. I ran into [an inspector] as I was leaving for work and I asked him if he was going to knock on the tenants’ doors and he said that’s the next step,” she says.
Johnston and Woods told insauga.com that they’ve had significant difficulty getting their building’s property management company to address several concerns regarding plumbing issues, pest sightings (mice in particular), unsafe outdoor equipment and above-standard rent increases.
“There’s been a dead mouse near our garbage. I told management on Dec. 30, 2022, and that mouse is still lying out there [as of early January]. The kid’s park we told them had to be fixed. Nails are sticking out and they weren’t touched. I don’t understand why everything has to be a fight. We’re good tenants. We have got one of the nicest little communities here.”
Insauga.com attempted to reach Village West Apartments by email but did not receive a response as of publication time.
Woods said that after several years of ignored complaints, she’s had to go above property management and reach out to the City for help and has been disappointed in the response.
“I have to call 311 but bylaw doesn’t give a crap,” she says, adding that the she’s particularly concerned about mess in the outdoor garbage collection areas.
“Garbage has been an issue for two years. We’re stacked townhouses, so we have three areas for garbage. It’s horrifying. When the trucks pick up garbage, sometimes stuff falls out and we don’t have lids on our garbage cans. It doesn’t get cleaned up.”
Johnston says it’s been next to impossible to resolve the issue.
“When you try to get help, it’s like pulling your hair out,” she says.
The City says it has identified problems at Woods’ and Johnston’s building, adding that it inspected the property on Dec. 12, 2022.
“During the evaluation, MARC program staff identified multiple property standards deficiencies that resulted in the issuance of a Property Standards Order…MARC program staff will continue to monitor the property for compliance with the applicable bylaw requirements and take appropriate action, as required.”
Johnston says that in order for the program to truly work, inspectors need to go to tenants first.
“We need to be taken more seriously and protected,” she says.
“Without talking to tenants, this program is useless. They need to start fining this property owner. Hit them in the pocketbook. Tenants here always have to fight fight fight [for repairs]. Fine these guys and fine them big. It’s been two years’ worth of garbage.”
A City spokesperson said that the program does allow inspectors to connect directly with tenants.
“Upon receipt of a complaint, MLEOs will investigate concerns. This may include speaking with tenants to identify other issue(s) and working with them and the property manager to resolve any identified by-law contraventions.
The spokesperson also said that landlords and property managers cannot bar inspectors from evaluating individual suites, and only tenants themselves have the right to refuse entry.
“If a landlord or property manager obstructs a MLEO, then they can be charged under the [bylaw]. Failure to comply could result, upon conviction, in a maximum fine of $100,000.”
A City spokesperson said that once complaints have been made, the property is monitored by a MARC MLEO who can take “appropriate action in the instance of non-compliance.”
As for how long a landlord or property manager has to correct an issue, the City says that depends on several factors.
“Timelines for resolution may vary due to the nature, scale and scope of work required. For non-emergency property standards violations, a MLEO is required to provide an owner with a minimum of 19 days to resolve a violation under the Building Code Act.”
According to the City, buildings that are found to be in poor condition are subject to an audit. During an audit, the City will thoroughly inspect the property, engage with tenants and require landlords to notify tenants of the audit. During an audit, inspectors can evaluate all accessible areas of the building.
Suppose a landlord or property management company refuses to make any necessary repairs. In that case, they could face a fine and MLEOs may arrange for contractors to complete the required work at the owner’s expense.
That said, Irfan says she would like to see more enforcement regarding buildings that are derelict in registering with the program and sharing inspection reports with tenants.
“Tenants at  Rathburn deal with this, a lack of transparency. At the end of the day, this program is for residents. It’s to improve living conditions for residents, so I think that if you’re going to put the onus on landlords to share inspection reports or if landlords don’t have to register, that’s all problematic,” she says.
The City says that the program does require landlords to post inspection reports, adding that the bylaw mandates that landlords post a copy of the most recent inspection on the tenant notification board.
“Additionally, an owner is required to provide a copy of the most recent evaluation completed by the City of the apartment building to any tenant within 60 days of receiving a written request,” the City said.
“Failure to comply could result, upon conviction, in a maximum fine of $100,000.”
Irfan says she’s concerned that despite rules being in place, those who flout them won’t face consequences–or at least haven’t yet.
“There are still holes within the MARC program. The only feedback I’ve heard hasn’t been positive,” she says.
“I hope the city is open to making changes to the program so it can be the program that it should be.”
Irfan hopes the City will set up a formal meeting and evaluate feedback from tenants and that a public registry of sorts will be utilized so that tenants don’t have to rely on landlords to share reports or other information.
“There should be public registry of all of this information. Saying landlords will provide the info is asking for trouble.”
“I think it’s a good program and it’s needed in the city. It’s a positive step. I hope they’re willing to work with groups to make the program run better.”
As of Nov. 25, 2022, program staff have investigated 407 service requests related to MARC buildings. There have been no fines laid for contraventions to the Rental Apartment Buildings By-law to date.
Written by Ashley Newport for Insauga.com