Toronto Star: License landlords to protect tenants: Editorial

Posted May 19, 2016

Joy Ruscitti-Hayes wasn’t about to give up easily. The Toronto resident led a year-long battle at the Landlord and Tenant Board to get her building manager to open up garbage chutes that were locked for 17 months, forcing tenants to haul their bags of refuse down to outside dumpsters.
This is the kind of problem Toronto tenants face because there’s no system in place to ensure they have, as a city report puts it, a “safe, secure and decent place to live.” A proposed licensing system for about 3,300 of the city’s rental apartment buildings could put an end to that. The city should go ahead with it.
Fully half of Torontonians live in apartment buildings, many of which are aging. And there has been a history of non-compliance with city work orders under the current inspection system.
Tenants need tougher protection from negligent landlords. The proposed licensing system — which would apply to buildings that have 10 or more units and are three storeys or higher — should give them that. Among the suggested measures:
  • Prohibiting landlords with outstanding work orders from applying for rent increases or leasing vacant units.
  • Letting tenants pay rent into an account set up by a court or local housing department, instead of to their landlord, until repairs are done.
  • Fining landlords who don’t comply with work orders up to $100,000.

If the city’s current audit program is any indication, there’s a lot of work to be done to bring rental buildings up to an acceptable standard. Since 2008, more than 58,000 deficiencies were found in the 1,046 apartment towers that were audited and more than 4,446 work orders were issued.

The proposed program won’t cost the city a dime. The estimated $3.5-million cost would be recovered through an annual licensing fee of $12 to $15 per unit.
If the landlord licensing framework is approved by city council in June a draft bylaw could be ready by next fall and in place by early 2017. For tenants tired of fighting with bad landlords, it can’t come soon enough.
Editorial source: The Toronto Star