Calls for ‘landlord licensing’ grow louder

The call for “landlord licensing” in one Ontario neighbourhood is designed to hold landlords and tenants to a higher level of accountability – but is it just about putting money in the city’s coffers?

“What we’re asking for is that [the proposal] be enforceable,” said Tony Miller, a landlord and a Realtor at Exit Matrix Realty in Ottawa. “It shouldn’t be a cash grab, and I think that’s what this is.”

Ottawa Councillor Rick Chiarelli has proposed landlord licensing in the neighbourhood surrounding Algonquin College, where there has been an increase in his constituents’ complaints about noise, pollution and traffic.

The proposal is based on the Oshawa model, where landlords pay $500 for a first-time license application and $75 for yearly renewal. The Ottawa-area councillor says the fees won’t be as high under his plan, but some critics say it still errs in laying the blame for bylaw infractions at the feet of landlords.

“We can screen tenants as much as we want,” said Miller. “We can meet them, meet their parents and do thorough background checks, but people will still modify their behaviour in their own homes.”

He suggests that, if the proposal is to pass, landlords should put wording in their leases to ensure that the fees are assumed by their tenants. “Some landlords will absorb the costs themselves, but then there will be less money to go into improving the property,” he added.

But Lena Guirguis, a real estate entrepreneur based in Ottawa, believes that “landlord licensing” is of benefit to tenants and landlords in helping clean up an area that really needs it.

“It is a win-win for all involved: residents, investors and tenants,” she said. “The fees being proposed are minimal when you consider that many of the student rental properties in the area net more than $450 a month.

“There are several property owners who are trying to provide quality rentals to students in the area; however, they are outnumbered by a larger number of owners who are happy collecting cheques, but couldn’t care less about the care of the property, quality of the tenants, or the quality of living for those in the area.”

The concept of landlord registration echoes a similar nuisance bylaw proposed in Wolfville, NS, advocating that landlords face fines if their tenants routinely ignore noise and liquor laws.

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  • by Jason 2015-04-16 2:20:12 PM

    The key is making it enforceable. There's a rental unit license bylaw in London Ontario, but the estimates are that only 10% of the rental units are actually licensed. The city doesn't have the resources to enforce it. And the property owners who are likely the worst offenders are going to be the ones that don't register so it becomes a cash grab for property owners who are already following the rules.

    If the complaints are noise then the tenants should be the ones getting noise violation fines. In London there are already a number of bylaws and if these were enforced through processes that were already in place the licensing just becomes a cash grab. And the problem is that the cost to the city is higher than the revenue so it's basically just a drain on the city budgets.

  • by Monica Benoit 2015-04-16 9:37:47 PM

    In Ottawa (and I'm guessing it's province-wide bit I'm not sure) non-profit housing organizations are required to pay for a 'Rooming House Licence' which sounds very similar to what's being proposed here. As non-profits receive Gov't funding, we were the first 'landlords' to be hit with the annual Rooming House Licencing fee of approximately $180 per property. The privately-owned Rooming Houses next door didn't register so, surprise, they don't pay the licence. (I have this info on good authority - got it first hand from the neighbouring Rooming House owner.). The Licencing requires 4-5 annual inspections (health, fire, electrical, building etc.) ANNUALLY! If any deficiencies are found, there is a timeframe within which the Landlord must comply. Now, what homeowner EVER has a follow-up health, fire etc. inspection after they move into their home? If you're argument is that it's a rental, then why haven't big, multi-unit apartment buildings been selected?
    I am perplexed as to why it's being suggested that Landlords are responsible for noise and other bylaw infractions? Is that not what BYLAW OFFICERS and the Police are here to do?
    Instead of making every Landlird pay for the bad properties (especially when it will be a program that runs in the red!) why not let these already in place trained personnel do their jobs?
    This is NOT another level of admin that our Gov't needs!!

  • by Peter M 2015-04-22 1:19:08 PM

    If you licence a landlord will that quiet down the tenants breaking by law infractions? No! total cash grab and bs thought up by someone who knows nothing of the landlords burden already exiting. If theirs a problem you go to the reliable tenant board that sorts out disputes in a quickly and efficient matter.

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