Sun: Inspectors to probe city's 5,000 rental buildings

City building inspectors are boldly going where they’ve never gone before in the battle against slum landlords.

“We’re actually going to get our own staff to go out there effectively with a checklist and do every single (rental) building in the city and kind of rate them,” Jim Hart, the executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, said.

“It’s a big job but we’re going to do it. We’ve barely started it but it’s going to get going in the next couple of months.”

Hart said no one has attempted to catalogue the rental stock in the city before because the job was seen as too big.

Undaunted, he’s determined to send out about 100 inspectors to give nearly 5,000 buildings a once-over, so his 12-member audit team can better focus its efforts on the buildings most in need of improvements.

Hart said he was confident all 5,000 would be seen by the end of the year.

“The goal is to get a list of buildings where officers can come back and say you really need to look at this building now,” Hart said. “It will give us information on buildings where we have absolutely no complaints but are in really dire need, especially smaller buildings.”

The inspections will help focus the Multi-Residence Apartment Building Audit Program that Hart ushered in 16 months ago, redeploying his inspectors from other tasks on to one target — blitzing four buildings in every ward of the city, plus 11 known problem sites.

Those 187 audits — inspectors managed a mere 14 the year before but plan for 200 in 2010 — turned up nearly 10,000 deficiencies and resulted in what Hart estimates as $100-million worth of improvements — $6 million at one building alone.

“Effectively, we didn’t have a program before,” Hart said. “Often what we find now is when we arrive at a building, they’ve already started making repairs.”

He has added two workers to his staff just to do follow-up work after the initial inspection is over.

Tatiana Jaunzems, field director for community advocate ACORN, said the audits are welcome but she would prefer to see more focus on individual living units, where the impact of a bad landlord is really felt.

“It’s not that hard to find out where the real bad ones are,” Jaunzems said, adding ACORN would like to see “hard, financial penalties” for landlords who fail to measure up.

Hart deserves credit for “taking the bull by the horns” and dramatically increasing the number of audits the city does, Brad Butt of the Greater Toronto Apartments Association said.

But scrapping inspections in every ward of the city in favour of targeting known trouble areas would be a big improvement, Butt said.

“Clearly they were spending a lot of time on buildings that didn’t really need it,” Butt said. “That’s going to change now and we’re fully supportive of that.”

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