What is Landlord Licensing?

Posted May 24, 2016

ACORN has been fighting for Landlord Licensing for 12 years in Toronto, and on Thursday May 19th ACORN won a big step in the campaign – a motion for landlord licensing is being voted on at City Council in early June. Here are some common questions that ACORN members have been answering over the past 12 years.
What is it?
Landlord licensing would make it so that there are annual inspections of all buildings in the City of Toronto with 3 or more floors and 10 or more units, and would make it so that landlords that fail these inspections would face large financial punishments from the City. Landlord Licensing would create a system similar to the licensing of restaurants. The business owner pays a small fee for their own license and inspectors ensure healthy standards. The cost will not be pushed into the tenants as provincial laws prevent this.
What sort of problems are tenants dealing with?
Tenants across the city are paying rent every single month, otherwise they’ll get evicted. Meanwhile landlords who don’t do repairs on time or do basic cleaning and maintenance get away without any punishment from the city. Families are trying to raise their kids, but issues like roaches, mold, infestations, dirty garbage rooms and unsafe conditions means that tenants face all sort of health issues. Tenants are being treated like second class citizens, ACORN says this is unacceptable.
What’s wrong with the current inspections?
Currently inspections of buildings are mainly complaint based. Complaint based inspections don’t work for many reasons: tenants don’t know to call 311, tenants don’t know their rights, tenants are afraid of landlords and eviction, language issues and tenants eventually become unwilling to sacrifice their time and energy complaining when the city doesn’t get results. 
What about the MRAB program?
In 2008 the City of Toronto launched the Multi-Residential Apartment Building (MRAB) program. ACORN helped the city design and launch the program, and did see some progress made. However, MRAB is clearly not enough – we are still living in bad buildings in terrible conditions. MRAB only targets a certain number of buildings across the city every year. Part of the way buildings are targeted is also based on number of complaints. The program also does not do in suite inspections of every unit, which is where the majority of problems are, usually. The City needs Landlord Licensing in order to ensure all landlords across the city are providing healthy homes to tenants.
What would a Landlord Licensing program look like?
City Council will be voting on whether to move forward on fleshing out the licensing program in early June. So far ACORN has been told the program will charge landlords a fee of $12-$15 per unit, annually. Buildings will have an annual inspection of common areas, boilers, elevators, and electrical systems. The inspections will also check if landlords are keeping up with cleaning, maintenance and pest control requirements.
Will it increase my rent?
No, there are provincial laws which set clear rules about what is allowed to be passed on to tenants. The landlords are claiming rents will go up if they are licensed, but ACORN members know rents go up every year anyways. Landlords also apply for above guideline rent increases all the time and win them for no good reason. Licensing Landlords is going to ensure that we at least get clean and healthy homes for the rents we already pay. The landlord lobby want to operate without the same rules that apply to restaurants, hot dog stands and any other business in Toronto.
What about good landlords?
Good landlords will benefit from this, because they can advertise that they have a clean healthy building. The slumlords that abuse tenants without horrible conditions will finally be held accountable to their tenants. We need proactive inspections of all buildings. We don’t only inspect restaurants that are known to be bad – all restaurants get inspected regardless of anything else. Buildings should be the same, the only way to know if a building is bad is through proactive inspections.
What if I don’t live in an apartment building?
Even if you are a homeowner or home renter, buildings like this have a negative impact on your community. Slumlords that don’t clean and maintain their buildings are a blight on the community. When slumlords don’t deal with pest issues in their buildings, the problem spreads across the City. And guess who is currently paying the bill for the insufficient attempts to get these non compliant slumlords to comply? The taxpayers of course.
What can I do?
ACORN members need to call their City Councillor and Mayor John Tory. Talk to neighbours and co-workers and tell them to call their City Councillor. There is a crucial vote coming on June 7th & June 8th, we need to keep the pressure on. Contact the Toronto office, 416 461 9233 or torontofo@acorncanada.org, if you need help getting contact info for councillor.
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