Calls for ‘landlord licensing’ grow louder

by Jennifer Paterson on 16 Apr 2015
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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