KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – An earlier survey conducted by ACORN Nova Scotia about housing conditions in HRM finds that many respondents live with bed bugs, rodents, mould, and safety issues. One third experienced heating issue in the winter, and many admitted to feeling intimidated by their landlord.
Now ACORN Nova Scotia is kicking off a more elaborate and province-wide on-line survey to back up its demands for landlord licensing and rent control.
Disrepair and bad landlords everywhere
Stories about disrepair and bad landlords will not come as news to many low income tenants in the city. It certainly doesn’t come as a surprise to Sarah Parker, an organizer with ACORN Nova Scotia, an organization that supports people on low incomes with chapters in North End Halifax and North Dartmouth.
Parker hears such stories a lot ever since she became active in ACORN.
Our landlord does not fix issues in our building, does not give notice when coming over, and generally does not consider our comfort when imposing to fix things she wants to that we have not asked for. From the ACORN NS report
It took months of complaining to have our landlord address a bathroom full of mould (ceiling was covered), the ceiling was partially collapsing, and tub paint was coming off & sticking in our feet. From the ACORN NS report
Now, after a successful meeting at the Dartmouth North Community Centre dedicated to bad landlords, ACORN is gearing up for a new campaign to push the municipality to implement landlord licensing and the province to establish rent control.
“The meeting was awesome. We had a wide range of people, people from Highfield, but also from mobile home parks, people who have private landlords. We had the four metro councillors speak briefly, and Emily Reid, a Salvation Army case worker talked about her efforts to find safe and healthy homes for her clients,” says Parker.
Matt Covey, division chief, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, spoke about existing bylaws 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.
What’s missing are a licensing system and mandatory inspections, says Parker, and the data collected through the brand new on line survey will be used to support these demands.
Province wide survey on rental housing conditions and landlords
Housing conditions across the province are in crisis, says ACORN Nova Scotia, which is why it is launching the province wide survey. In fact, some notorious landlords such as Metcap Living operate in many locations across Nova Scotia.
The data collected will be used to build a case not just for municipal landlord licensing, but also to begin working with provincial politicians on implementing rent control or a rent cap.
At this time, as long as a landlord gives sufficient notice they can raise the rent to as much as they want, and that’s a problem that will only become more serious when landlord licensing is put in place..
“If we are going to implement some kind of landlord licensing we don’t want the landlord to take it out on the tenant. So we want the city and the province to work together, to make sure that landlords are held accountable, but not over the backs of the tenants,” says Parker.
The survey will run from April 30 to June 30, 2017.
Landlord licensing in Halifax moving at snail’s pace
Implementing landlord licensing has been one of the priorities of ACORN Nova Scotia for a long time. Such a bylaw would require rental apartments to be registered at City Hall and subject to an inspection. This is to protect tenants from bad landlord and substandard living conditions, much like restaurant licensing protects you from unsafe food.
Earlier this year Toronto implemented a landlord licensing scheme, but although Council is interested in Halifax and asked staff to present a report, things are moving at a snail’s pace.
We are still waiting for the staff report, says Parker, who had contacted the city for a progress report, and read that response at the community meeting. Consultation with major landlords and the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, a landlord lobbying group is still ongoing.
“I think the councilors were a little embarrassed. You could see them slinking down in their seats. There was a lot of bureaucratic speech not telling us anything,” says Parker.
“We need to make rent control and landlord licensing an issue that politicians can no longer ignore,” says Parker. “Filling out this survey is a real way to get your voice heard. Here is a chance to show the politicians that rental housing is a problem, and to tell them that you can’t keep ignoring what is going on,” Parker says.
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