City moves forward with plan to target bad landlords

Special Toronto committee meeting on Monday will focus on rental issues

A city committee gave new bylaws aimed at cracking down on bad landlords the green light on Monday.

City council will now debate the proposed rules at an upcoming meeting. If approved, inspectors will start visiting Toronto's 2,800 rental buildings to make sure landlords are providing proper space for tenants.

"By the end of this year we'll be in every building in the city," vowed Tracey Cook, the executive director of the city's licensing and standards division.

Once the city has what Cook called a "baseline assessment" of the buildings, it will be able to offer up better information to would-be renters about the conditions and how management has dealt with them. Cook said this could eventually resemble the city's DineSafe program, though rental buildings may not get the same green, yellow or red designation.

The bylaw also recommends that apartment building owners and operators:

- Register each year with the city and pay an annual fee.

- Develop a process for receiving and tracking all tenant requests.

- Devise and maintain plans for waste management and cleaning.

- Conduct regular inspections and take action when pests are detected.

- Use licensed contractors for mechanical systems repairs.

- Retain records relating to the operations of the building.

Cook said the standards in local apartment buildings "need to be raised."

The Greater Toronto Apartment Association opposes the city's plans, saying owners of apartment buildings already pay more in property taxes than homes or condo buildings, and that the new fee could affect affordability.

But tenant groups welcomed the decision.

Geordie Dent, of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, said he hears the same complaints from renters so often he feels like he's in Groundhog Day.

Coun. Josh Matlow also praised the new rules, saying they will cut down on some of the awful conditions that exist in certain buildings in the city.

"What we can do, we should do," he said.

There are some things, however, that are out of the city's hands. For example, the province's 1991 rule, which allows massive rent hikes in newer buildings.