City staff will begin inspecting the thousands of apartment buildings in Toronto this summer after council approved a new bylaw aimed at cracking down on bad landlords.
Council voted 41-1 in favour of the new regulations, which will require landlords to register each year with the city and pay an annual fee. They'll also need to develop plans for tracking tenant requests, handling waste and dealing with pests.
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Landlords who fail to comply with these regulations would be issued violation notices and face fines up to $100,000.
"We need to protect the tenants that we have … and ensure they live in a clean and safe environment," said Coun. Frances Nunziata.
In many cases, she said, bad landlords allow buildings to fall into abhorrent conditions, while dragging any complaints through the legal process.
"They know the system," she said.
Scarborough resident Rita Dempster said there has been a series of problems in her building since new management took over four years ago, including water damage and crumbling walls.
"Nothing was being done," she told reporters.
That is, until city inspectors performed an audit on her building last week, prompting a series of improvements, including electrical fixes and bug spraying throughout the building.
"It's made a huge difference," she said.
Coun. Josh Matlow said there are 3,500 multi-residential buildings across the city, and city inspectors will be in every one by the end of the year.
"The job starts now," he said.
Several councillors concerned bylaw will hurt landlords
Coun. John Campbell said he's concerned good landlords will lose money just because of the actions of a few "bad apples."
Giorgio Mammoliti said he doesn't think the city should be involved in monitoring landlords.
"This is no good; it's no good for the city," he said.
Mammoliti said he's also concerned the new regulations will scare off developers hoping to build more rental units.
Both ACORN and The Federation of Metro Tenants' Association have praised the plan.
At the committee phase of the debate, the Greater Toronto Apartment Association objected, saying apartment buildings already face municipal property tax rates that are nearly three times higher than what house and condo owners are charged.
A DineSafe equivalant for apartments?
Tracey Cook, the executive director of the city's licensing and standards division, said the summer inspections will provide a "baseline assessment" of the buildings, so the city can better protect renters.
The system could eventually resemble the city's DineSafe program, under which restaurants and bars are inspected and given a rating for food safety, though rental buildings may not get the same green, yellow or red designation.
The rules cover landlords who operate apartment buildings taller than three storeys with 10 or more units.
Rental buildings run by co-ops or social housing providers, like Toronto Community Housing, are exempt from the new fees.