The Pointer: ‘They need to be held accountable’: Brampton residents ask council to include corporate landlords in Residential Rental Licensing pilot plan
Posted October 5, 2023
During a Committee of Council meeting on September 20, Brampton City planner Mirella Palermo presented an overview of the Residential Rental Licensing Pilot Program which aims to “protect the health and safety, and human rights” of tenants.
The RRL program hopes to “proactively mitigate potential risks that may exist within a particular business sector and provide enforcement mechanisms to respond to complaints relating to that sector.”
The pilot program would take place for a two-year period in Wards 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7, and would apply to properties renting five or less units, owners of rental housing units, operators of rental housing units and dwelling units used or intended to be used for a rental housing unit, as Palermo shared. It is set to be implemented on January 1, 2024.
Such initiatives are becoming more common across Ontario, as the cost of rental housing has increased dramatically over the last decade, without enforceable rules, putting more and more tenants at risk of losing their accommodation. Incomes, meanwhile, have not kept pace with prices in the rental market pushed rapidly upward by property owners.
In neighbouring Toronto, for example, rental costs for all apartment types on average rose past the $3,000 mark for the first time, hitting $3,122 in March according to housing research firm Urbanation Inc. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, average rent in the city a decade earlier for all apartments was $1,138, for 2013. While the cost almost tripled in ten years, Statistics Canada data shows the average household income only increased by about 30 percent over the same period, about ten percent of the growth compared to rental prices, putting tenant housing out of reach for more and more residents.
The Brampton program excludes certain types of properties, including rentals that contain more than five units. This particular property exemption was disputed by residents at the meeting during their delegations, who told Council that by not including rental properties with more than five units, corporate landlords would not be held accountable for violations to tenants’ rights and safety.
Members of Peel ACORN, a national community organization that advocates for the rights of low and middle-income earners, presented their delegations at the Committee of Council meeting, advocating for the inclusion of properties with more than five units into the RRL Pilot Program.
Jeannette Loretta, a Brampton resident and Peel ACORN member, asked Council that the pilot program not just be applied “to the smaller mom and pop landlords who rent out their basements, their homes, to a very, very small portion of your renters, but to include all corporations and real estate investment trusts… and all financialized landlords to ensure the fair and safe housing for all of your residents who rent in this city.”
“I’ve seen what these corporate giants get away with and what they do to their tenants. Many of the tenants here have numerous health, safety and maintenance issues that are not being addressed,” Loretta told Council.
Another member and Brampton resident, Stacy Ann Stephenson, also asked Council to include corporate landlords into the program. “[There’s] no one holding these corporate giants accountable for the things that they’re doing to the renters…” said Stephenson. “They need to be held accountable. They really need to be held accountable.”
“So I’m just pleading right now to everyone that’s able to hear my voice, not only for myself but for other persons who are looking to come to Canada, to make Canada their home. These are some of the things that we as immigrants, as renters, as persons who are just here trying to get a better life, we are being suppressed by these corporate giants who have money, who make money and then they shove us underneath the carpet, they do a little fixture on the outside and say, ‘it’s good’, but it’s not good,” Stephenson said. “They need to be held responsible for every unit that they put on the building…”.
At the same meeting, Peel ACORN submitted a correspondence to Council dated September 19, 2023, which expressed the organization’s concerns around the exemption of properties with more than five units from the RRL Pilot Program. “While Peel ACORN is encouraged by the city staff report recommending a Residential Rental Licensing Program, the program will only cover properties with 5 or less units. Thus, it will leave out thousands of tenants that are seeking accountability for lack of repair and maintenance,” it reads. “Most of these properties are owned by corporate landlords who will be completely let off the hook. The affordable housing crisis is only getting worse and many tenants are stuck in precarious housing.”
The letter goes on to highlight the organization’s work in other cities around landlord licensing, and says it “strongly believes that as the City of Brampton moves towards a pilot Landlord Licensing program, it would be critical to include apartment buildings with [more than five units] as well.”
“This is a great opportunity for the city to ensure that tenants across Brampton are able to access healthy, safe and accessible housing,” the letter says.
Tanya Burkart, a Peel ACORN member and one of the residents who presented a delegation at the Committee of Council meeting, told The Pointer that tenants renting units in multi-unit residential apartment buildings struggle with basic repair maintenance and safety issues, including accessibility and lighting issues, and that when they call the City and file complaints, the process takes a long time to be completed and that the work is not of decent quality.
“Landlord licensing protects the affordable housing we have, and the goal of it is to maintain buildings to block this renoviction process. We need landlord licensing for all apartment buildings regardless of the number of units,” Burkart said.
During Burkart’s delegation at the Committee of Council meeting, she presented some of the issues tenants of corporate landlords face, including examples of fire safety issues, electrical safety violations, mold, lack of safe accessibility and unsafe construction sites, among other issues. “There’s no current system in this proposed Residential Rental Licensing Program that accounts for landlords over five units or tenants over five units. So we have no protections and we can’t go to LTB because there’s an eight month backlog and you’re risking eviction by doing so,” she told Council.
Brampton is racing to build more housing as part of its pledge to create 113,000 new homes, part of its commitment to help the provincial government reach its goal of building 1.5 million new housing units across Ontario by 2031. While Brampton continues to propose high density housing and medium and high-rise apartments and condos into its plans to meet its target, a pilot program that exempts landlords renting out properties of more than five units not only presents challenges for current tenants of these rental units, but also suggest this issue may affect the growing number of renters expected in coming years.
The Pointer asked the City of Brampton if it will consider amending the RRL Pilot Program to include properties that are renting more than five units after hearing the delegations from residents on September 20, and has not received a response. The pilot program has not yet been finalized, with Council directing staff to assemble a task force for the program to further address how it should be planned and to report back on any concerns brought by council members at their next meeting.
Article by Hafsa Ahmed for the Pointer