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Toronto approves landlord licensing, will Halifax be next?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – From now on Toronto rental apartments must be registered at City Hall and will be subject to an inspection. This is to protect tenants from bad landlord and substandard living conditions.  

A similar initiative in Halifax is being looked at by Halifax city staff, but it is very early days.

Spryfield public housing. Contributed.

In Toronto landlords will have to display a notice whether the building received a pass, a conditional pass or a failing grade. Fines for repeat offenders will be substantially increased.

After much debate a divided Toronto Council voted in favour of the new bylaw late last year. The new regime will start sometime this summer.  

ACORN Canada is celebrating what it calls a major victory in the fight for decent living conditions for low-income renters.

“Now, if the landlord had more than enough time to address the issue then s(he) will be faced with an extremely high fine. That’s exactly what we wanted and that’s exactly what we got,” ACORN member Kemba Richardson told Rabble’s Maya Bullar.   

Fines and a new $10.60 per unit annual fee that landlords will have to pay will absorb about 65 percent of the expected $5.1 million cost. That budget will pay for the hiring of 12 new staff, inspections, as well as a baseline audit of Toronto’s 3,500 largest rental buildings.

Will Halifax be next?

A similar landlord inspection and licensing regime may well be implemented in Halifax in the next year or so.  This is something ACORN Nova Scotia for one has long been asking for.

Already in place in Halifax is a bylaw that sets standards for rental units and boarding houses.  It describes conditions that must be met in terms of safety, structural soundness, dampness, pests, heating, plumbing, ventilation, etc.

Water damage in a MetCap Living apartment in North Dartmouth. Photo Robert Devet.

It also defines the types of access landlords must provide to city inspectors, the powers the city has to order compliance, and fines the city can impose of up to $10,000.

What’s missing are a licensing system and mandatory inspections.

Halifax South Downtown councillor Waye Mason told CBC in September 2016 that city staff is looking at the issue, and is expected to report back to Council next spring or summer.

Meanwhile the city is consulting with major landlords and the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia,  a landlord lobbying group.  

If the recent Toronto experience is any indication most Halifax landlords will argue that landlord licensing is unnecessary, that it is really a tax, will end up costing the tenant more, will make innocent “good” landlords pay for the misdeeds of a few bad apples, and so on.  

Yet many believe that something needs to be done about the terrible housing conditions many low-income renters face in Halifax.

Conditions of a good number of rental units in Halifax are just as bad as those in Toronto. Many tenants in Halifax live with bed bugs, rodents, mould, and safety issues.

That includes tenants of individual landlords, of companies such as MetCap Living, and even of public housing. Many of these landlords feel no urgency to deal with these issues. 

Maybe a bylaw with real teeth will compel them to change their ways.

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  1. I currently live in a Killam Properties building in Halifax and have been sprayed for bedbugs six or seven times to no avail because of the carpet.I am breaking my lease by moving at the end of the month because the rent is too expensive and I can’t keep getting new couches (I’m on my 6th in 3 1/2 years).

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