The state of Toronto's declining rental stock is deplorable.
Years of neglect, disrepair, lack of enforcement of city standards and opportunistic
landlords have resulted in clusters of slums in the city's poorest neighbourhoods,
creating ghettoes rivalling America's worst inner cities.
For years, the Parkdale Tenants Association has fought for
tenants' right to safe and healthy rental housing.
It is time for the Province of Ontario and the City of
Toronto to take meaningful action on behalf of tenants. Specifically, we call
on the two levels of government to carry out these priorities:
The government of Ontario must immediately amend the
City of Toronto Act to give the city the power to license apartment buildings,
as recommended in the Dill
Report of December, 2003. An apartment licensing system, which has been
adopted successfully by cities such as Vancouver and Los Angeles, would place
the onus on landlords to demonstrate compliance and provide additional resources
to help the city improve the inspection system.
Pro-active, regular inspections of apartment buildings
by city inspectors, including individual dwelling units (with the permission
of the tenant) as well as common areas. At present, the inspection system
depends upon complaints from individual tenants. However, many tenants may
be reluctant to complain due to lack of awareness of the complaints process,
language barriers, or fear of reprisal from their landlord.
In addition to its recentlylaunched tenant disclosure website about apartment building violations, the city should establish a phone
line that would provide tenants with information about scheduled inspections,
notices and orders.
A building rating system, similar to the City of Toronto's
Dinesafe program. Restaurants in Toronto get inspected on a regular basis.
Why not apartment buildings? This information to be prominently posted in
public areas of buildings and available on the website.
More frequent inspections of known problem buildings.
A permanent crisis intervention team for problem buildings.
This team would focus on buildings with a history of chronic non-compliance
with city work orders, until they are brought up to acceptable standards.
Increased inspector staffing levels in order to carry
out an adequate inspection regime.
Heavier fines for violators. At present, the penalties
are too lenient and provide no deterrent for landlords. This would also mean
that problem landlords who are a burden on the licensing system would contribute
more toward the maintenance of that system, thereby lessening the load on
responsible landlords and the taxpayer.
For outstanding work orders involving serious disrepair,
issues and urgent hazards, the City should pass enabling legislation, whereby
the city carries out the repairs and charges the landlord through the property
The city should pass enabling legislation whereby it
would have the power to expropriate buildings which have been proven to be
in long-standing, flagrant violation of maintenance standards.
Landlords who are persistently delinquent be required,
by court order, to live in their own buildings until such time as they are
brought up to acceptable standards.
All landlords should be required by the Provincial Government to set up and maintain a 'Capital Reserve Fund' for each of their buildings. This fund can only be used for ongoing maintenance and capital repairs of the building and represents a significant portion of the rents. Reserve funds are already required by law on non-profit housing corporations such as Co-ops. Condominiums are also required to maintain a capital reserve fund. The requirement to maintain a building reserve fund would go a long way to prevent the irrecoverable disrepair which has taken place in badly maintained buildings. Landlords would be forced by law to dedicate the funds in the reserve fund to the upkeep of the building and nothing else.
Good landlords would have nothing to fear from these provisions.
They are aimed at the few slumlords who tarnish the reputation of all landlords.
They would establish standards and practices that would have the effect of leveling
the playing field for the rental market. Good landlords would not have to face
unfair competition from opportunistic Slumlords.