City council to decide whether to license rental housing in Windsor

·3 min read
Student rental housing abounds near the University of Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Student rental housing abounds near the University of Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Post secondary student Ivette Rincon recalls living in a rental house with 10 other people, which she describes as a "terrible condition."

She is in favour of a new bylaw that would allow city inspections of residential rental housing units on a regular basis.

"You constantly complain to the landlords, and there doesn't seem to be a standard or procedure. It looks like it's just a way of them getting their profit and not caring for the residents," Rincon said.

City council will have four options to consider Monday:

  • Keeping the status quo.

  • Imposing a mandatory licensing bylaw on residential rental units city-wide.

  • Imposing a voluntary city-wide licensing bylaw.

  • Starting a two-year pilot project that imposes a mandatory bylaw on rental units in Wards One and Two.

The last option is what Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante is advocating. He says those are the wards with the most student rentals, and city officials have noticed that students are hesitant to complain to the city when they are living in deplorable conditions.

Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante wants to see a two-year pilot project for licensing rental homes.
Ward 2 Coun. Fabio Costante wants to see a two-year pilot project for licensing rental homes.(Dale Molnar/CBC)

"I think it's sensible. I think it allows us to build the infrastructure and to roll this out in a way that is doable," Costante said.

In a report, city inspectors have added pictures of dangerous and sub-standard living conditions they have come across over the years including, collapsing ceilings from water damage, excessive black mould and filthy bathrooms.

In one case, inspectors found a bed tucked away in an area of a basement with a flashlight as a light.

City inspectors found this "bed" in a small nook in a basement in one housing rental.
City inspectors found this "bed" in a small nook in a basement in one housing rental.(City of Windsor)

"This whole policy is intended for tenant safety," said Costante.

Recent college graduate Sania Vega has also experienced sub-standard living conditions in rentals and agrees the city needs to crack down. She says she lived in housing with undesirable characters.

"They had all the garbage in one room and if you have to go out, you'll be scared to go out and it's just a horror story," said Vega.

But Borys Sozanski, who owns several rental houses near the University of Windsor, says the unscrupulous landlords will fly under the radar, not apply for a license and the cost of the program will fall to the good landlords to bear.

He says the city should step up enforcement of current bylaws. He believes that demand for the housing — which is already waning due to the COVID pandemic — will further erode this fall and so students who need accommodations won't have to settle for sub-standard conditions. The decent housing units will satisfy demand.

Filthy bathroom in a rental house inspected by city officials.
Filthy bathroom in a rental house inspected by city officials.(City of Windsor)

"Forces will push out the people who have not taken care of their properties," said Sozanski.

Sozanski says landlords will also just pass the cost of licensing onto the renters. But Costante says that has not been proven in other jurisdictions where licensing has been imposed.

"It's just the cost of doing business," said Costante.

If council chooses to go the licensing route, details around who must pay and how much will still have to be worked out.

Black mould found in one rental house by city inspectors.
Black mould found in one rental house by city inspectors.(City of Windsor)